Cleveland Collectors: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt
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Cleveland Collectors: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt

William and Julia Marlatt's gifts to the museum's collection and Ingalls Library were both unexpected and magnificent. William H. Marlatt (1869-1937), and his wife Julia Morgan Marlatt (1873-1939), quietly amassed a collection of fine books, paintings, etchings, and manuscripts.

Although little documentation survives regarding the Marlatts or their collections, we know that upon Julia's death, more than 300 books were given to the museum, along with works of art and a bequest of nearly $1 million to be used to purchase art for the museum and materials for the Ingalls Library. Included amongst the books given to the Ingalls Library was a complete set of the works of the Kelmscott Press, printed by William Morris (1834-1896). The Ingalls Library Rare Book Collection contains one invoice from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., dated October 3, 1917, recording the purchase of the Kelmscott Press's The Golden Legend, volume 1.

The Marlatt bequest was a surprise. In a letter dated August 21, 1939, to director William Milliken (who was traveling in Europe), curator of paintings, Henry Francis wrote:

"I'm sure you suffered brain fever when you got my cable last Friday, much as we all did here. The only information we have on the Marlatts is their ten dollar, and later twenty-five dollar memberships. Of those trustees I have talked to, Mr. Clark [Harold T. Clark] is the only one with a more than cursory acquaintance. Mr. Clark saw the executors who said the lady has been retiring always; used to frequent the Museum Sunday afternoons with her husband and watch quietly the enjoyment of others."1

In addition to the Kelmscott collection and other books, several paintings came to the museum as well as a Rembrandt etching and two French books of hours. The income from the Marlatt bequest has enabled the museum to purchase iconic works such as Frederic Edwin Church's Twilight in the Wilderness, Thomas Cole's View of Florence, Charles Sheeler's Church Street El, Claude's Italian Landscape, Thomas Gainsborough's Rocky Landscape with a Del, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' Antiochus and Stratonice and Peter Paul Ruben's Isabella Brant.

1. Letter from Henry Francis to William Milliken, 21 August 1939. Director's Files on Estates and Funds, Box 8, folder 3. Cleveland Museum of Art Archives.