London, South Kensington
9 June 2015
MERLY LIBRARY – A catalogue of the well known and celebrated library of the late Ralph Willet. London: Leigh and Sotheby, 1813-1814. 8° (224 x 142mm.) Prices and names of buyers supplied in a neat contemporary hand. Loosely inserted is Willet’s anonymously published 38pp. A description of the library at Merly, issued only with a drop-head title. (Latter disbound, first 4 and last 4 leaves stained, minor marginal chip to first leaf, a few leaves lightly dogeared.) Contemporary scarlet half calf rebacked preserving original spine). Provenance: Henry B.H. Beaufoy FRS (1750-1795; bookplate) – Wilfred Merton (booklabel dated 1844).
THICK-PAPER COPY. On his father's death in 1740 Ralph Willet (1719-1795) succeeded to the family estates in the West Indies which enabled him, for the rest of his life, to gratify his taste for books and pictures. He built Merly in Canford, Dorset, to accommodate his library, but soon had to add two wings to contain his collections. The Merly library was auctioned by Leigh and Sotheby over seventeen days between 6 and 24 December 1813, the 2,720 lots of books fetching £13,223 7s. 6d. Many found their way into the Spencer, Grenville, Devonshire, and White Knights collections. Thomas Frognall Dibdin helped compile the catalogue (see ODNB). For an account of Willett and his library see Alan G. Thomas in The Book Collector, Winter 1963. Jackson 33.
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