The Bolton Library, formerly the library of the Church of Ireland Cathedral at Cashel, Co Tipperary, and named for Archbishop Theophilius Bolton (1678-1744), bequeathed by him to the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory, was given on loan for an indefinite term to the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick (UL), in February 2016. The 12,000 books and manuscripts in the collection, amassed by Bolton and his predecessor, Archbishop William King, are currently undergoing cleaning and cataloguing at the Special Collections department in UL.
The collection is described as a scholars' library, insofar as King and Bolton tried to encompass as much as possible of humanity's knowledge of the world. Consequently, it is strong on the history of science, technology and medicine, including around forty works by Robert Boyle, but it also has several continental printed books, including a Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), a 1616 edition of Palladio's works, and a book on ecclesiastical law bearing the arms of Catherine of Aragon. It also preserves fifteen manuscripts predating 1701, forty-five incunabula, letters, maps, and pamphlets. The oldest manuscript on vellum dates from the 12th century.
The library is also home to many fragments, perhaps most significant among them two leaves from William Caxton's 1483 folio production of Geoffrey Chaucer's Book of Fame (STC 5087). The fragments are known but under-examined. They are listed in Duff's Printing in England in the Fifteenth Century (#86), and are among a very few extant copies that edition held at Cambridge University Library; at the British Library (2 copies); at John Rylands University Library (2 copies); at Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, and at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, some of these fragmentary. The Bolton fragments consist of two leaves mounted and framed, and under glass (though initial assessments seem to reveal that the paper is not touching the glass). However, the leaves are extremely fragile, victims of the substandard conditions in the Cashel Chapter House building over many years, and the books and other items in the collection show signs of damage caused by environmental conditions, in particular damp, mould, water staining and insect damage. Conservation is due to begin on the collection in January 2019, and the conservation plan published in 2007 recommended that the presentation of the fragments be maintained, with glass being replaced with Lexan and the application of conservation board window mounts.
This paper will provide a brief update on the work as well as a description of the fragments and what is known about how they came to be in the collection, communicating any new findings that have come to light as a result of the conservation work and the continued excavation of the library papers and records.