Unique items in the Bolton Library #2

by Olivia Lardner, Bolton Cataloguer

In Unique items in the Bolton Library #1, it was flagged that the long-held figure of 50 unique items in the Bolton Library1 had been surpassed, and was likely to rise further. We are thrilled to report that that figure is now closer to 125, with over 50 of those items printed right here in Ireland.

Today, however, we leave these shores and move further afield, and we will begin with Bolton Library E.6.46.


Title page of Bolton Library E.6.46 Missale ad usum ecclesiae Romanae printed in Lyon in 1550
Missale ad vsvm ecclesiae Romanae (Lyon : Antoine Vincent, 1550)


This volume may become a regular contributor to our Advent Calendar, containing as it does some of the smallest and most apt religious images on the theme,



but we have chosen it today for this curious personification of Death on f.185:


Image of death which appears in the missal Bolton Library E.6.46
Death walks


Death walks

Death is winged, and tramples underfoot the bodies of men and women alike. He holds in one hand a clock, and the other raises a threatening spear.



In contrast to the other more solid images in the Missale, this depiction of Death is as skeletal as the figures therein. The only substantial part of the image is in the tree above, the presence of a crow calling out ‘Cras cras’, i.e.: tomorrow tomorrow, employed no doubt to stress for the eventual owners of this item the inevitability of death… and judgement.


Title page aesthetic

Its title page boasts a sizeable printer’s device,2 in which Ss. Peter and Paul hold a banner bearing the image of Jesus Christ. The printer’s tiny initials are almost completely lost in the large device.


Device used by Antoine Vincent when printing this 1550 missal
The device of printer Antoine Vincent


The Bolton Library copy of this mid-16th century Lyon printing is the only one we could trace,3 and the omission of its depiction of Death from a study on the subject by Francis Douce4 is therefore unsurprising. However, a description on p 172 of Douce’s work, describing the woodcut5 of Death which appears in Horæ ad usum Romanum, printed for Geoffrey Tory of Tours in 1525, is an exact match.


This 1550 missal would be rendered obsolete 20 years later with the publication of a papal bull in 1570.6 A sister volume had standardised breviaries two years before following the Council of Trent,7 rendering any breviary from the preceding 200 years invalid; such reforms of the service books of the Catholic Church must surely have been a windfall for anyone in the book trade!


English College Press

We now move on to the English College in Saint-Omer, found by Robert Persons (Parsons) in 15938 – one of 600 colleges founded by the Society of Jesus across Europe since 1540.9

A proclamation pvblished vnder the name of Iames King of Great Britanny, which is here misleadingly dated 1510, has been variously attributed to Joseph Cresswell (1556-1623) and Michael Walpole (1570-1624?), and is the political response of James I to the murder of Henry IV of France.10


T.p. of Bolton Library D.18.31(1) published in 1610
Proclamation pvblished vnder the name of Iames King of Great Britanny ([S.l. : s.n.], 1510 [i.e. 1610])

While our chosen item here does not bear a printer’s name, or indeed a place of publication,11 it could well be the work of Saint-Omer’s first licenced printer François Bellet,12 or indeed the Jesuits’ own clandestine press.13


Processionale monasticvm ([16__])

We are very careful to search for other known copies before pronouncing the existence of a unique item in the collection, and we thought for a spell that Bolton Library E.7.46 might be a unique item. We based our case for this on what remains of the damaged date at the tail of this copy’s title page and the dates of other known Saint-Mihiel copies, i.e.: 1619 and 1626.14


Title page of the processional Bolton Library E.7.46
Processionale monasticvm (Saint-Mihiel : Du Bois and Francois, [1626])

Our counterparts abroad have kindly verified that the 1619 edition is indeed different,15 but a visual match has been found to the 1626 edition at the University and State Library Darmstadt (Shelfmark W 5693).16 This cataloguer still, however, has difficulty seeing the beginnings of ‘MDCXXVI’ in the image below:


Damage to title page date in Bolton Library E.7.46
Highly compromised date


Processionale monasticvm (Saint-Mihiel : Du Bois and François, [1626]) was printed in Saint-Mihiel in north-eastern France and was most likely produced for the use of the Benedictine order there, whose 8th century abbey17 continued to thrive. Indeed, one of its printers, François Du Bois, is known to have worked in the abbey for most of his career.18

This Bolton Library processional is an easily portable 18cm in height, and comes complete with musical notation in manuscript19 at the end of the volume.



It was once in the ownership of one Gilbert Cullen. Might he perhaps have been a monk in Saint-Mihiel?


The makrings which appear on the title page of Bolton Library E.7.46
Former ownership markings



The labelling of any item as ‘unique’ is of course subject to change. In our recent Heritage Week 2022 A to Z exhibition, Bolton Library B.20.43 was deemed the only known copy of the 10th Madrid edition of Promptvario moral de qvestiones practicas (1675). An always advisable recheck of this status during the preparation of this blog post has uncovered (recently discovered? recently catalogued?) copies in Cordoba, Seville, Puebla and Princeton.


Further Reading

Archives départementales de la Meuse. Saint-Mihiel. Abbaye Saint-Michel (bénédictins)

Cottineau, L.H. (1935). Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés.

Ziegelbauer, M. (1754). Historia rei literariæ ordinis s. Benedicti, in 4. partes distributa.



  1. Coey, A., Turner, B. and McGuinn, N. (2007). Bolton Library County Tipperary : conservation plan. Kilkenny: Heritage Council, p. 16. Available here.[]
  2. A mark appearing on title-page/ colophon created by/ for printers to protect against forgery and piracy.[]
  3. It is a notable absence in: Pettegree, A. and Walsby, M. (2012) French books III & IV : books published in France before 1601 in Latin and languages other than French. Leiden: Brill. Find it here.[]
  4. Douce, F. (1833). The dance of death. London: William Pickering, available here.[]
  5. An image carved/ gouged into wood, which is then inked for printing.[]
  6. Nowakowska, N. (2011). From Strassburg to Trent: bishops, printing and liturgical reform in the fifteenth century. Past & Present, 213(1), pp. 3-39. Available here.[]
  7. Cabrol, F. (1907) ‘Breviary’, The Catholic encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Available here.[]
  8. Houliston, V. (2013). Catholic resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’s Jesuit polemic, 1580–1610. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. and Institutum historicum Societatis Iesu. (Catholic Christendom, 1300-1750/ Bibliotheca Institutum Historici Societatis Iesu; 63), available here.[]
  9. Leech, P., & Whitehead, M. (2011). ‘In paradise and among angels’: music and musicians at St. Omers English Jesuit College, 1593-1721. Tijdschrift Van De Koninklijke Vereniging Voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 61(1/2), p. 57. Available here.[]
  10. See ESTC record S509241, British Library.[]
  11. The more common 1611 version, which incidentally also bears a date error, owes its imprint verification and corrected publication date to the STC; the recently uncovered Bolton Library item of a year earlier here follows suit.[]
  12. Newdigate, C.A. (1919). Notes on the seventeenth century printing press of the English College at Saint Omers. The Library, s3-X(39), July 1919, pp. 179–190,. Available here.[]
  13. Cumpston Jones, R. (2012). Saint-Omer and the British connection, p. 76, available here.[]
  14. USTC, University of St. Andrews.[]
  15. Email to the author (Sept. 2020).[]
  16. Email to the author (Feb. 2021).[]
  17. Abbaye de Saint-Mihiel, Mairie de Saint-Mihiel.[]
  18. CERL thesaurus, CERL.[]
  19. Written by hand.[]