National Heritage Week 2022: The Bolton Library A to Z

For National Heritage Week 2022, we are showcasing the weird and the wonderful of The Bolton Library, illustrating the wide scope of the collection through an online exhibition.



The Bolton Library came to the Glucksman Library in 2016 from the Church of Ireland in Cashel, Co. Tipperary. It is a collection of 12,000 printed books, manuscripts and incunabula of exceptional academic and bibliographic importance. First accumulated in the 18th Century by Archbishop William King (1650-1729) & Bishop Theophilus Bolton, (1678-1744) it encompasses a range of different topics such as theology, literature, science, technology, medicine and the history of Ireland. It contains many items of rarity, some not recorded anywhere else in the world and some not recorded anywhere else in Ireland.


Cover of I.17.14


Now over five years in the University of Limerick, we invite you – A to Z – on a whistle-stop tour of the weird and the wonderful from the Bolton Library.

Taking you through this exhibition are some of the myriad of initials which we have encountered in the new cataloguing and conservation project of the collection. These initials are the descendants, in the handpress era, of the decorated initial, which was one of the characteristic features of medieval manuscript illumination. Each initial will take you to a new discovery in the Bolton Library in a virtual exhibition ranging from Banned Books through to Elixirated spirit of Scurvy Grass, and a medieval bathing King, the mysterious instrument Phagotum and all the way to Witchcraft and Expurgated.

Now as then, the initials continue to provide an opportunity to demonstrate skill, to record daily life, or to simply use one’s imagination.


Printed music rounded off in manuscript in a rare processional (E.7.46)


The Bolton Library is of exceptional academic and bibliographical significance and is one of the most important libraries in Ireland. The collection presents numerous possibilities for research and historical study. The Bolton Library team have been keen to promote any new findings or points of interest and have done so regularly through this Special Collections & Archives UL Blog, which we would encourage you to follow.


Begin Exhibition