Nathaniel Cooke

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Chess pieces of Nathaniel Cooke's 1849 "Staunton" design

Nathaniel Cooke was the designer of a set of chess figures which is now the standard set.

He registered his design at the United Kingdom Patent Office on 1 March 1849 under the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. As he was the editor of The Illustrated London News, the newspaper where Howard Staunton wrote a regular chess column, he asked Staunton to advertise his chess set. Staunton did so in his column on 8 September 1849, and the set became famous under the name Staunton chess set.

In addition, Cooke was an ambitious London-based publisher who, as Ingram, Cooke & Co., produced many volumes of history, travel guides, and other works. Ingram and Cooke were the proprietors of the mid-Victorian National Illustrated Library that failed in 1854 due to carrying an excess amount of titles: "When the 'National Illustrated Library' was started, all were pleased and surprised at the appearance and price of the volumes, and it is certain that they would have paid; but a fatal error was made, almost at once, in commencing the publishing of other libraries at the same office, and in the purchasing at high prices old plates for republication; so many series came from the publisher . . . that their advertisements were confusion worse confounded, and everybody was lost in the maze. The proprietor has now given up the business, not without a very serious loss" (Norton's Literary Gazette and Publishers Circular Vol. 1, 1854, p. 467).

Herbert Ingram, Cooke's brother-in-law and publishing house partner, was the co-founder of the London Illustrated News. Herbert Ingram died in a boating accident while traveling in the United States with his son. His steamer, the Lady Elgin, sank in Lake Superior when another passenger steamer, the Augusta, crashed into the Lady Elgin. Of the Lady Elgin's 400 passengers, only 100 survived. The accident occurred near Winetka, Wisconsin during an early September storm (Charles Mackay Forty Years' Recollections of Life, Literature, and Public Affairs from 1830 to 1870, 1877, 2:72-73).


Nathaniel Cooke's listings in the London Directories
Marriage announcement in The Illustrated London News, 31 January 1860

Cooke's name was misspelled as "Cook" on the 1849 patent and the misspelling has propagated in chess literature since then. The correct spelling can be found in numerous documents, including his listings in the London Directories (see sidebar) as well as official announcements of the marriage of his daughter Harriet Ingram Cooke, to John Jaques II, son of John Jaques, owner of the company that first manufactured the Staunton pieces in 1849 (see sidebar).


  • Brace, Edward R. (1977), An Illustrated Dictionary of Chess, Hamlyn Publishing Group, p. 71, ISBN 1-55521-394-4
  • Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), "Staunton chessmen", The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 392, ISBN 0-19-280049-3