Archaeological adventures in the Bolton Library

by Paul Novosel

If I wasn’t a professional musician, I would have probably been an archaeologist. Unearthing the past and finding historical artefacts has always fascinated me. And this term at UL, I had the chance to experience something akin to an archaeological dig: as part of my MA in Ritual Chant and Song, I delved into the world of rare liturgical books.

For one of my MA modules, I was given the awesome opportunity to thoroughly examine a rare book from the Bolton Library and create a record of its health (image 1). The University of Limerick takes care of the Bolton Library, “a collection of 12,000 early printed books, manuscripts and incunabula of exceptional academic and bibliographic importance”. It’s a literary goldmine of historical artefacts for future generations of researchers—a very noble legacy, and a coup for the Glucksman Library.


1: Students of the MA in Ritual Chant & Song in Special Collections 

The Bolton Library is currently being catalogued by Olivia Lardner, and my assignment was to create a catalogue record of a printed chant book from the Bolton Library for Olivia’s catalogue. It’s not everyday that someone asks you to analyse something and hands you a rare Roman Catholic Missal that was used by priests on the altars of Ireland in 1682, contains more that 650 pages of art engravings, Gregorian chant music notation, wood block initials, and was run through a Gutenberg-style press twice (once for black ink, and once for red). Books have a long shelf life, if you pardon the pun!

Before the inspection and cataloguing process, and being apprentice cataloguers, my colleagues and I were briefed by Glucksman’s wonderful staff on how to handle a rare book (image 2). Surprisingly, white gloves are no longer used because it is thought that they make your fingers clumsy, which could cause damage. Clean, clean, hands now serves as best practice. Careful transport, and proper support for the spine is paramount, along with a slew of safety precautions. The process of cataloging one rare book can take hours, even days. Every page must be analysed and counted; hundreds of details written down; meta-data created; and languages translated. For my assignment, the book I analysed (shelfmark K.1.12) was in Church Latin, with small accent marks above the text indicating how certain words should be pronounced – so we know that this book was intended for use in the public recitation of the liturgy.


2: Learning how to …!

The books which comprise the Bolton Library will take some time to catalogue, but this catalogue will be essential for scholars of the future. To expertly catalogue a book is to ensure that solid facts about the book are concise and helpful for the researcher, and that the book’s intrinsic value maintains its integrity as a connection from the past to the present. The experience of cataloging a book is like sitting down with a new friend and asking, “What are you all about?”

The project experience of the MA Ritual Chant and Song was a hands-on stupendous and unforgettable experience. Nor is it every day that you can page through a rare old book and discover its beauty and uniqueness, it’s like being… an archeologist.

The MA In Ritual Chant & Song is taught by staff at the Irish World Academy.


Unlocking the Bolton: New Seminar Series

The Centre for Early Modern Studies, Limerick and the Glucksman Library, UL, will co-host a seminar series, commencing in April 2018 and extending into the 2018-19 academic year, to celebrate the Bolton Collection. “Unlocking the Bolton” will feature lectures and talks by scholars and librarians on this important and exciting collection of books, incunabula and manuscripts.

unlockingthe bolton.png


Amassed by Archbishop William King and Archbishop Theophilus Bolton in the eighteenth century the collection, comprising over 12,000 items, was acquired by the Glucksman Library in 2016 where it is currently being conserved and catalogued.

The first seminar will take place on 25th April when Ken Bergin, Head of Special Collections, will speak on “The History of the Bolton Library”.  The seminar will take place in the Boardroom in the Glucksman Library, and all are welcome (visitors to the library should bring their ID cards or sign in at the access gates).

Unlocking the Bolton; Seminar Schedule, April / May 2018 

Wednesday April 25th, 1pm, Ken Bergin, Head of Special Collections, “The History of the Bolton Library” (Boardroom, Glucksman Library)

Tuesday May 22nd, 1pm: Olivia Lardner, Cataloguer for the Bolton Library, “Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions” (Boardroom, Glucksman Library)

Further information on the Bolton Collection at:

Queries to


Call for Proposals: Frankenweek


Frankenstein-Prize-122018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s seminal gothic novel Frankenstein. In honour of this occasion, members of the Centre for Early Modern Studies have partnered with the Frankenreads project – a global community of scholars

and enthusiasts committed to celebrating Shelley’s remarkable achievement – to coordinate a Limerick-based series of events culminating in a public reading of Frankenstein on 31 October 2018. It is envisioned that these events will take place between 22-31 October, drawing attention to the vibrant, engaged research and teaching culture at UL and MIC as well as to creativity and collaborative initatives across the wider Limerick community.

We invite proposals from the UL/MIC community and its partners for events including, but not limited to, lectures, seminars, readings, screenings, performance-based interpretations/responses, experiments, exhibitions, and discussions. Events may focus on any aspect of the novel, its authorship, and its publication and dissemination. However, we particularly welcome inter- and cross-disciplinary proposals on the following topics/themes:

  • Frankenstein, medicine, and the medical imaginary;
  • Frankenstein and scientific revolution(s)/future(s);
  • Frankenstein and nineteenth-century history;
  • Frankenstein’s afterlives in literature and visual culture;
  • Frankenstein and its material culture;
  • Frankenstein’s texts and inter-texts;
  • Frankenstein and gender;
  • Frankenstein and the university;
  • Frankenstein and its environment(s);
  •  Mary Shelley and Frankenstein online;
  •  Mary Shelley and her peers.

Proposals from/involving students and student societies are especially encouraged, as are those linked to cultural institutions and community-based groups in Limerick and the Shannon region.

Please send queries and proposals to Dr. Tina Morin and Dr. Carrie Griffin at by Thursday, 31 May 2018.

Stephen Griffin, PhD student in the Department of History, UL, writes about evidence for high levels of international diplomacy in archives in Rome and Vienna:

Stephen Griffin

I recently undertook a short trip to Rome to conduct archival research at the Vatican Secret Archives. The purpose of this visit was to identify and examine primary sources relating to the Papal Nuncios who dwelt in Vienna in the years 1727-43, the period in which Owen O’Rouerke, an agent of James Francis Edward Stuart, also lived there. The correspondence between the Nuncios and the Vatican Secretaries of State largely deals with Italian affairs, but also provides details on the affairs of the Stuarts in Europe. In particular, they highlight Papal involvement in the lawsuit between the Stuarts and their in-laws, the Duke and Duchess of Bouillon between 1737 and 1741.


Entrance to the Secret Archives, Vatican City

James Stuart’s father-in-law was James Louis Sobieski, the Prince of Ohlau (Oława in present day Poland). Before his death in 1737, he had intended to leave an inheritance to his grandsons, Charles Edward and Henry Benedict Stuart. When Sobieski died in December 1737, the Stuart claim to the inheritance was challenged by Sobieski’s surviving daughter, Maria Karolina, Duchess of Bouillon. The Stuart side of affairs was handled by both O’Rouerke and the Nuncio, Cardinal Camillo Paolucci. The lawsuit itself was decided by the Bohemian Chancellery, which kept charge of the Bohemian lands of the Habsburg Monarchy. Although the Chancellery ruled in favour of the Stuarts, the Sobieski estates were occupied by Frederick II of Prussia in the Silesian Wars of the 1740s and much of the Sobieski inheritance was taken out of Stuart hands.

Overall, my research focuses on the activities of O’Rouerke as a nobleman and diplomatic agent to different masters in the courts of Europe. The documents found in the Vatican Secret Archives together with those I have already seen in Vienna show that in addition to diplomatic ventures, O’Rouerke was also involved in managing the Stuart court’s judicial affairs. Furthermore, they confirm the close association between O’Rouerke and the Papal Nuncios in Vienna.

Stephen is supervised by Dr Richard Kirwan.

Diplomacy and Politics: The Vatican Secret Archives

Dr Eleanor Giraud lecture, Hunt Museum

Dr Eleanor Giraud of the Irish World Academy will deliver a Hunt Museum Highlight Lecture entitled ‘Reading between the lines: neglected notation in a medieval manuscript’ on Monday 4th September, at 1pm in the Captain’s Room, Hunt Museum, Limerick

A finely decorated manuscript leaf from a twelfth-century Gospel lectionary will be the subject of this Highlights Lecture. Its depiction of the crucifixion was no doubt the reason it entered the Hunt Collection. However, equally interesting are the readings or ‘lections’ on the reverse of the leaf, which display small marks of musical notation, indicating how the text should be intoned. This lecture will explore the notation used to guide lectors through their melodic reading of lections at Mass. Dr Eleanor Giraud is a lecturer and course director of the MA in Ritual Chant and Song at the Irish World Academy, University of Limerick.