Ralph Willett (Biographical details)

Ralph Willett (collector; British; Male; 1719 - 1795)

Also known as

Willett, Ralph

Biography

His fortune based on inherited estates in the West Indies. Book and art collector. Author of 'Observations on the Origin of Printing' in 'Archaeologia', VIII, pp. 239-50. Patron of Georg Dionysius Ehret. On the library he had built at Merly House, Dorset, see Tim Knox in 'Apollo' July 2000, pp.38-45, and David Alexander, PQ 2002, 55-6. He had the plasterwork reliefs on the ceiling with scenes of the progress of civilisation engraved, published in 1785 by subscription (set in the BM).
His estate passed to his cousin, John Willett Adye (fl. 1796-1806), who took the name Willett, and later to Henry Ralph Willett (1783-1858; q.v.).
Sales: drawings, Philipe,13-16.vi.1808; prints, Philipe, 4-13.v, 27.v - 3.vi, 10 - 25.vii.1812, 7-13.iv.1813; pictures, prints and drawings, Philipe, 21-23.vi.1813; library, Leigh & Sotheby, 6-24.xii.1813; prints, Philipe, 7-11.iii.1814; drawings, Philipe, 11-13.v.1814. The DNB suggests that pictures sold by John Willett at Coxe, 31.v - 2.vi.1813 were from Ralph Willett's collection.

Bibliography

DNB
Alan G.Thomas, 'Book Collector' XII 1963, pp.439-8, 'Portrait of a bibliophile' (on his library)
David Alexander, 'Print Quarterly', XIX 2002, pp.55-6: catalogue of the 25 plates in the 'Description of the library at Merly' of 1785