Victor Hamilton

Procurer of rare books


Victor Hamilton
Lieutenant Commander (Retired), Royal Navy 1915 – 1919

Occupation: Rare books expert
Birthplace: New York, New York
Birthdate: December 19, 1894
Residence: Kingsport (West Side)

Victor was born the 4th son to Prof. James Alfred Hamilton, a world-renowned scholar of ancient literature, and his wife Margaret Dailey. The prominent Hamiltons of New York City, are descended from the illustrious colonial financier Alexander Hamilton.

As a child, Victor and his family often traveled with Prof. Hamilton on fellowship research trips around the Europe, North Africa, and the Near East. With his father absorbed by his studies, Victor was often neglected and his curiosity and independent spirit often got him into trouble both in Manhattan and during their trips abroad. More than once he was chastised by his parents for choosing his friends poorly and wasting his youth on disreputable pursuits.
Despite mediocre grades, Victor’s raw intellect and father’s extensive academic connections earned him a place reading classical literature at Cambridge (Gonville & Caius). He excelled not only in Latin and Arabic, but he also took a blue (varsity letter) in fencing (epee).

It was at Cambridge that Victor also succumbed to his addiction . . . Victor loved to steal books. Now as a child, Victor had nicked things from local shops and friends’ parents’ houses. There was something thrilling about it. However, it was at Cambridge where this larcenous tendency really became refined. He learned that there was nothing he enjoyed more than stealing precious books.

During his years in Cambridge perhaps a half-dozen volumes disappeared from college and faculty libraries. The wealthy Glaswegian, Dr. Ian Clarke was guiding Victor’s research into source writings for One Thousand and One Nights, and noticed that several prized pages of Arabic manuscript were missing from his home. Clarke confronted Victor, but surprisingly was more proud than betrayed when he confessed his misdeed. Clarke went on to explain that scholars uncover, appropriate and disseminate knowledge and that throughout human history stolen books have helped transplant powerful new (and often lost classical) ideas across cultures. Clarke described how he had raided ancient libraries in his youth and how he still employs agents to do so.

Victor Hamilton had heard his calling.

Enthralled by Prof. Clarke’s stories, he was introduced to the Welshman Major Victor Hughes of the Royal Marines. Major Hughes was assigned to the HMS Hermes, a cruiser stationed in Gibraltar that operated in the Mediterranean. Major Hughes described his role in a ring of internal fine arts thieves and recruited Hamilton to join him. Lieutenant Hamilton accepted his Royal Navy commission within weeks of graduation from Cambridge, disappointing his father greatly. He had had high hopes that Victor would follow in his academic footsteps.

Aboard the HMS Hermes and during stops all across the Cote D’Azur, North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey and Levantine , Hughes taught Hamilton the art of stealth and burglary. He taught him how to silently enter a house, where the wealthy tended to keep their valuables, and how to instantly appraise value of potential booty. Hamilton’s own knowledge of rare books, which he’d been developing since his child and during his university studies, helped the team immensely. Hughes had friends in every port who could help him move merchandise.

When the Great War broke out, it did little to curtail the activities of Hughes and Hamilton. Truth be told, other than horrors of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles, the only real armed hostility either faced was from angry victims and pursuing watchmen. In fact, the chaos of war provided a magnificent cover for their looting and cat burglary. As Hughes and Hamilton often joked over brandy, “The spoils of war belong to the Victors”.

This very profitable partnership came to an abrupt end in Damascus, where Hughes and Hamilton had traveled by train to steal a priceless Arabic Plautus translation. While in the home of the mark, an Ottoman prince, Hughes was instantly shot and killed. Hamilton barely made his escape and feigned ignorance when Hughes did not report aboard the next morning.

Several months later, Victor resigned his commission, shared the sad news of Major Hughes’s fate with Prof. Clarke, and then returned home to the States. Back in wealthy New York, he took note of the burgeoning collections that industrialists like the Morgans, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and others were amassing. There was something of an arms race with all these families hoping to outdo each other. Victor decided to settle in the sleepy seaside resort town of Kingsport, Massachusetts just outside the university town of Arkham.

From this safe and quiet harbor, he operates as an appraiser and “purchasing” agent for rare books. His clientele call from all along the Eastern seaboard and even the Continent. Those seeking difficult to find works and willing to pay considerable expense know Victor Hamilton as a trusted man who can locate and procure these books . Victor benefits greatly from the world-class library at Miskatonic University and the amazingly knowledgeable staff there. These days, he is sometimes hired by insurers in Hartford, New York, and London to appraise valuable book collections for insurance purposes and has even helped locate stolen books and return them to their rightful owners (for generous rewards). In order to facilitate his work in this regard, he has obtained a Private Investigator’s license.

Victor Hamilton

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