The A-Z of the Bolton Library


In 2016, the Representative Church Body Library of the Church of Ireland placed the Bolton Library in the care of the University of Limerick and the books were relocated to the Glucksman Library’s Special Collections & Archives Department. This decision was not taken lightly. For over two decades it proved impossible to provide the necessary environmental control and management in Cashel and the books had continued to deteriorate. 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.

The books were surfaced cleaned in 2016 and were placed in a humidity and temperature controlled environment, with secure monitoring and management. The Bolton Library Cataloguer, Ms Olivia Lardner began cataloguing the collection in 2018 and she was joined by the Bolton Library Conservator, Ms Josefin Jimenez in mid-2019.


Close-up of the 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.