The Bolton Library comprises over 12,000 early printed books, manuscripts and incunabula. The collection is of exceptional academic and bibliographical significance and is one of the most important private libraries in Ireland.
Formerly the diocesan library of Cashel, the collection was transferred to the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick in late 2016. Extensive conservation work is taking place, and a detailed new catalogue is being created by our Bolton Cataloguer, Olivia Lardner. Olivia will also blog regularly about her work — be sure to subscribe to the department blog here.
History of the Bolton Library
The Library reflects the wide-ranging bibliographical interests of its collectors Archbishop William King and Archbishop Theophilus Bolton who compiled the books in the early eighteenth century. In addition to its substantial holdings of early modern printed books, across a wide range of subjects, the Bolton Library contains several manuscripts, including a medieval encyclopaedia from 1168-1220 and a missal which is one of only three examples of hand written missals in Ireland prior to 1500. Significantly, it includes 18 imprints from before 1500, and 30 up to 1520.
The Library reflects the interests, knowledge and concerns of the time in which they were collected, as the bishops sought to build a library to encompass as much as possible of humanity’s knowledge of the world. The history of science, technology and medicine is strongly represented in the collection, as is Irish history in the 1640-1660 period. It includes a number of manuscripts, the most significant of which is a medieval encyclopedia from 1168-1220 and a missal which is one of only three examples of hand written missals in Ireland prior to 1500. The collection presents numerous possibilities for research and historical study and will offer a valuable means of providing students with access to rare materials that can enrich their learning. UL has committed to supporting a permanent exhibition from the collection in Cashel, working with Tipperary County Council, the Office of Public Works and local bodies.
Despite the best efforts of the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Dean of Cashel, the Bolton Board of Management, the University of Limerick, Cashel Heritage, the Heritage Council and the OPW many of the oldest and most valuable items in the collection were at real risk of being lost. For over two decades it was not possible to provide the necessary environmental control and management in Cashel and the condition of the books deteriorated severely over time.
The Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland placed the collection in the care of the University of Limerick and the books have now been relocated to the Glucksman Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department. Here, they are currently being appropriately preserved in a humidity and temperature controlled environment, with secure monitoring and management.
How to search
Due to the fragile condition of much of the collection, and to allow for thorough assessment and conservation, the most robust items from the Bolton Library are being catalogued first (as opposed to following its original order). Descriptions are added to the main Glucksman Library catalogue as soon as the item is catalogued — use the search term Cashel Diocesan Library, or click here to see all items catalogued to date.