WILLETT, Ralph (1719-1795) -- Catalogue of the Books in the Library of Ralph Willett, Esq., at Merly in the County of Dorset. London: [privately printed by John Nichols?], 1790.
8o (219 x 135 mm). Contemporary green half calf gilt. Provenance: Ralph Willett (his annotations throughout); Alan G. Thomas (bookplate).
WILLETT'S OWN ANNOTATED COPY of the catalogue of his library at Merly, limited to a few copies, with about 160 titles of books acquired by him during the last five years of his life, added in his own hand, mainly in the lower margins of the pages, and with a number of corrections to the printed descriptions. Willett was a very private man and is hardly mentioned by his contemporaries. He derived his fortune from West Indian plantations; as a book collector, "his main interest...lay in typography, his scientific approach to which was far ahead of his time" (Thomas). He owned four block books, books printed by Gutenberg (the Catholicon), Fust and Schoeffer, Sweynheym and Pannartz (9), Jenson, the most important Aldines, seven Caxtons, to mention only a few of his early printed books. Some of these are entered in his catalogue in his hand such as: "Biblia rara, per Jenson, Venet. 1476, 2 vol. on Vellum, the letters are finely painted, & highly enriched with Gold. RW." Although Martin records the catalogue, there were no copies of it in the Eyton and Dobell catalogues. Neither this nor any other copies figured in the sale catalogue of the Merly Library. De Ricci, p. 88 ("very scarce"); A.G. Thomas, in The Book Collector, 1963.