WILLETT, Ralph (1719-1795) -- Merly Library. A Catalogue of the well known and celebrated Library of the late Ralph Willett, Esq. ... comprising a most rare Assemblage of the Early Printers, fine specimens of Block Printing, Old English Chronicles, &c. ... Books in every Department of Literature, from the earliest period to the present Time ... many printed on Vellum and on Large Paper, and bound in Morocco and Russia ... a Most Splendid Missal; and a very Choice Selection of Botanical Drawings. London: Sotheby's, 6 December 1813.
8o. Early 19th-century English blue half russia, spine gilt (very worn). Provenance: J.T. Brockett (1788-1842), early collector of private press books (bookplate and his annotations; see his sale, 1823, lot 683, 19s to Cuthell); A.L. McLaughlin (bookplate).
John Trotter Brockett's copy of Willett's posthumous sale catalogue (for his private catalogue see lot 165), with his notes in the lower margins and in the text, on the provenances of the copies, their state, etc., and some of the names of collectors for whom booksellers had bought them. The list of prices, issued in 1814, does not mention the buyers; it is not present here nor in two Houghton Library and the two B.L. copies. Dibdin may have contributed some of the descriptions, according to Jackson, Dibdin Bibliography, p. 27. Some results include: Biblia Pauperum Blockbook: £257.5.0 to Sir G.P. Turner; Caxton, The Game of Chesse, second edition, £173.5.0 to the Duke of Devonshire; Caxton, The Boke of Tulle, 1481, £210.0.0 to the Marquess of Blandford; the Block Book Apocalypse, £42 to Archer; Caxton's Mirror of the World, second edition, £136.10.0 to Longman; Horologium Sapientie, Caxton, £194.5.0 to Dibdin for Lord Spencer; Block Book Speculum, Belgice, £252 to Longman, afterwards to Lord Spencer; Catholicon, Mainz, Gutenberg, £60.18.0 to Archer; the Jenson Bible, 1476, on vellum, £168 to the Duke of Devonshire. This copy has pp. 105-119, lots 2,728-2,906, listing the botanical drawings; there were apparently two issues: one ending on p. 103, as the two B.L. copies, which were then supplemented by 'The Catalogue of Botanical Drawings (which) will be delivered gratis' as announced on the title-page, and a later one, in which those pages were printed consecutively; the drawings were arranged under the Latin names of the flowers depicted, followed by the names of the artists. Outstanding among them was G.D. Ehret "who spent the summers of many years at Merly, its library containing 'a copious collection of exotics' by him" (DNB), though the last lot of the sale, two atlas folios of drawings by him, only fetched £24.3.0. The entire sale realized £13,508.4.0. PRICED WITH MOST BUYERS' NAMES in a contemporary hand, ruled in red. For an account of Willett and his library see Alan G. Thomas in The Book Collector, Winter 1963.