By Eilís Walsh
The Bolton Library moved to UL this month, with a collection over 12,000 ancient books, manuscripts and incunabulae. Incunabulae are books that were printed using metal type up to the year 1500.
The collection was amassed by two bishops (Archbishop William King and Bishop Theophilus Bolton) in the early eighteenth century. The collection was given to Glucksman Library by The Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland.
The collection contains many historic manuscripts such as imprints of the Nurenberg Chronicle 1493, which is a book detailing the major history of the world before the discovery of the New World (America). Other important manuscripts are Dantae’s Divine Comedy, Venice 1512 and the Sarum Missal, Rouen 1515.
Within this collection are books with certain library stamps referring to previous ownership. This is newsworthy as these stamps indicate provenance connected with Catherine of Aragon, a woman who was the first wife of King Henry VIII and was Queen of England for a time. The collection also contains 200 volumes of rare 17th century Irish pamphlets from counties of Dublin, Belfast and Cork, an example being the 1648 Kilkenny Confederate Declaration of 1648.
The Bolton Library has books containing information on natural sciences, mathematics, astronomy, law, politics, literature and medicine etc. Titles that stand out are Isaac Newton’s Principia mathematica, a revolutionary work in the history of science and Capt. John Smith’s book Generall historie of Virgina, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1632). A book from 1617 (Fynes Moryson’s An Itinerary displays the first time the words “Merry Christmas” appeared together.
The contents of the Boston Library are in poor condition, with some titles suffering from mould damage and are continuing to deteriorate rapidly. To ensure that these priceless artifacts survive for future generations they will need to be stored in an environment with appropriate temperature and humidity.
A Bolton Library exhibit in Cashel is being developed by the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Dean of Cashel, the Heritage Council, the University itself and many other partners. At present, the exhibition in Cashel is reported to attract “few visitors” and is “under-utilised as a benefit to Cashel”. Plans are being drawn up for an accessible, functioning and profitable exhibition in the centre of Cashel town.
As the Bolton Library is a unique library of information, it has proved to have a strong public appeal in exhibitions that have been purposely designed and curated specifically for the collection. This is the aim of the University; to present “a real attraction to visitors”.
The preservation of the Bolton Library is of great importance to both the University and The Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland. The University is deemed as being well equipped to hold, preserve and exhibit these beautiful remnants of the past to the public. It is hoped that the exhibit will prove to be not only accessible to the public, but will also make academic exploration of this collection possible.