Henry Thomas 1779-1854

From Book Owners Online

Lord Henry Thomas Cockburn 1779-1854

Biographical Note

Judge, politician and author. Born in or near Edinburgh to Archibald Cockburn and Janet Rannie. Married Elizabeth MacDowall in 1811 and had 11 children in Edinburgh and Bonaly. Attended Edinburgh high school, and was influenced by Dugald Stewart at the University of Edinburgh. Passed advocate in 1800. Helped found the Edinburgh Academy in 1823, and the Commercial Bank; was rector of Glasgow University. Close friends with Francis Jeffrey and John Richardson; he drafted the Scottish Reform Bill with Jeffrey in the 1830s. He fell into debt late in life.


His library was sold at auction after his death, in five days from 22 November 1854, in Edinburgh by Mr T. Nisbet. It comprised over 1412 lots of books, including some sets - for example, 68 books privately printed for the Maitland Club (lot number 839) sold as a single lot. It included books on law, such as Howell's State Trials in 33 vols; French, Italian and Spanish literature, and a volume on 'Thuggee', Calcutta, 1839 (1247); complete sets of works printed privately for the Bannatyne, Maitland, Abbotsford and Spalding Clubs; the complete Edinburgh and Quarterly reviews, and a collection of pamphlets and tracts related to Scotland and Edinburgh in particular. It also included large uniformly bound collections of particular authors, including Defoe's works (82 vols); Buffon's Historie Naturelle bound in old morocco, 98 vols; and 70 vols of Beaumarchais editions of Voltaire.

Characteristic Markings

He used a bookplate, which can be seen in, for example, Phaedri, Augusti liberti, Fabularum Aesopiarum libri quinque: ex recensione Petri Burmanni. (Glasgow: 1751), Sp Coll RB 2946 in the University of Glasgow Library.


  • Catalogue of the valuable library of the late Lord Cockburn, consisting of an extensive collection of books in English and Scottish history and antiquities, the Belles Lettres, law and general literature, comprising Roberts' Holy Land, Nubia, and Egypt, complete, one of two copies selected by the artist himself; and extraordinary collection of the original editions of Defoe's Works, in 82 vols. ... Dibdin's Bibliographical Decameron, Tour, Antiquities, Bibliomania, and other works; the Baskerville Classics, 7 vols ... which will be sold by auction by Mr. T. Nisbet ... Edinburgh, on Wednesday, November 22, 1854, and four following lawful days … ([Edinburgh, 1854]). 74p. National Library of Scotland: 3.2577(2).
  • Miller, Karl. "Cockburn, Henry, Lord Cockburn (1779–1854), author and judge." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 5 Jul. 2023.
  • "Phaedri, Augusti liberti…," Glasgow University Library Catalogue. https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b1820270.