Book science in the Bolton Library

© Scans of MS Canon Grandel’s Prayer Book, Western University Archives, London, Ontario, produced by J.D. Sargan and scanned by Andrew J Nelson, Western University.


Project outline

Many of the early bindings in the Bolton Library—a predominantly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century collection now deposited at the University of Limerick and subject to ongoing conservation and cataloguing efforts—contain in situ fragments of medieval manuscripts. This project uses micro-CT imaging, alongside other technologies, to locate and identify those fragments. The ultimate aim of the project is to use algorithmic segmentation to isolate the medieval fragments within the volume and digitally unfold them in order to read the writing preserved on them. Where several fragments from the same item are used together, these pieces may then be digitally pieced together, reconstructing both the uncut page and the deconstruction process. This facility has the potential to vastly expand our access to reused medieval texts, with significant implications for our understanding of manuscript provision, typologies, and eventual loss rates. In the Bolton Library in particular, it is hoped that fragments will provide evidence of the trade routes that brought books to collectors in Ireland by indicating provenance and connecting books to related items in other libraries. So far, analysis suggests that Archbishop Bolton was able to tap into dynamic networks of transnational exchange between England and Continental Europe. The project is funded by the European Research Council as part of the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programme.



Dr J.D. Sargan, Marie Sklowdoska-Curie Individual Research Fellow, School of English, Irish, and Communication, University of Limerick. Email:



For more information on the approach used in this project, see JD Sargan, JJ Lockhart, AJ Nelson, DL Meert-Williston and A Gillespie, ‘The Ghosts of Bindings Past: Micro-Computed X-Ray Tomography for the Study of Bookbinding’, Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures 11, 1 (Spring 2022).