Golden Cockerel Napoleon's "Memoirs" in a Handsome Cosway Binding Using a Portrait Apparently Done in the 1830s by a Known Painter


(Waltham St. Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press, 1945). 317 x 190 mm. (12 1/2 x 7 1/2"). 422, [2]; 78, [2] pp. Two volumes bound in one. Translated and edited by Somerset de Chair. No. 412 OF 500 NUMBERED COPIES.

HANDSOME RED MOROCCO BY BAYNTUN (RIVIERE) (stamp-signed in gilt on rear turn-in), covers with double gilt rule surrounding a field of alternating gilt tools (a bee, and the letter "N" encircled by a wreath), upper board with inset WATERCOLOR OVAL PORTRAIT OF NAPOLEON, with two flags, a gun, and a saber outlined in gilt appearing to cross behind it, lower cover with large gilt armorial device, raised bands, compartments ruled in gilt with bee or "N" tool at the center, gilt lettering, thick turn-ins with gilt rules and decorative cornerpieces, blue watered silk endleaves, top edge gilt, others untrimmed, original map endpapers bound in. Volume I with a frontispiece portrait of Napoleon, volume II with a black and white photograph of a modern sculpture of the general, title page of each volume with a woodcut design of an eagle clutching a flag among other accoutrements of war. Title page of volume one SIGNED BY THE EDITOR in ink. Chanticleer 167; Cave & Manson 167. ◆Small nick to head of spine and some minor damage along the tail, two small stains and a couple of dings to covers, but still a beautiful binding in very pleasing condition. Small repair to edge of one of the map endpapers, one or two isolated trivial smudges elsewhere, but the contents nearly pristine.

This is a finely bound copy of an innovative version of the memoirs that were based on conversations between Napoleon and Emmanuel-Augustin-Dieudonné-Joseph, Comte de Las Cases (1766-1842). The count accompanied the defeated emperor into exile on Saint Helena as an informal secretary, took a great many notes about Napoleon's life, inserted his own impressions, colored his account to the point of (favorable) misrepresentation, and published the work as the celebrated "Mémorial de Ste. Hélène," from which he made a substantial amount of money. Our translator and editor Somerset de Chair has turned the text into a first-person narrative and rearranged the pieces so that events are recalled in chronological order. The first volume covers the general's career from Corsica to Marengo, and the second is devoted to Waterloo. The so-called "Cosway" binding, featuring handsome morocco inset with one or more painted miniatures, apparently originated with the London bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran about 1909. It was in that year that G. C. Williamson's book entitled "Richard Cosway" (dealing with the British miniature painter of that name, 1742-1821) was remaindered by Sotheran and presumably given this special decorative treatment. The name "Cosway" was then used to describe any book so treated, whoever its author. Other prominent binderies, chiefly Sangorski & Sutcliffe and Bayntun, produced their own versions of the popular style. The Bayntun firm, founded in Bath in 1894, is now the last of the great Victorian trade binderies still in family ownership. Among the great English workshops of the Edwardian "golden age" of lavish bindings, Bayntun has the distinction of being the only one located outside London's West End to be sought after by bibliophiles. In 1939, Bayntun took over the esteemed Riviere firm, founded in 1829. The oval portrait on the present work is especially pleasing because it communicates something of Napoleon's character: he appears smug and in control, yet expressing some of the famous charisma that contributed to his success. The miniature bears the monogram "WMB," quite likely the initials of William Mineard Bennet (1778-1858), a painter and miniaturist who studied under Thomas Lawrence. According to Benezit, he went to Paris in 1835 "where he was extremely well received, enjoying the patronage of both the Duke de Berry and King Louis-Philippe."

Price: $4,800.00