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Bolton Library – An Exceptional Collection Of Rare Literature

Bolton Library in the shadow of The Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, Cashel, Co. Tipp.

An exceptional collection of literature, described by experts as the one of the most important of its kind in Ireland has been taken into the care of the State, by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The Bolton Library in Cashel, Co Tipperary, was first established by an 18th century Church of Ireland Archbishop and skilled Canon Lawyer, Theophilus Bolton, (1678-1744), grandson of Sir Richard Bolton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Educated in Trinity College Dublin, Archbishop Bolton became Chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral  in 1714, Bishop of Clonfert and later Bishop of Elphin in 1724, before becoming Archbishop of Cashel in 1730. The Cashel Palace Hotel directly opposite Cashel Cathedral was originally built for his convenience, as a place of residence.  His rare collection of some 11,000 books maps and pamphlets were bequeathed to the Cashel Diocese following his death.

This unique collection of antiquarian European books contain the thoughts, words and deeds of mankind for over 2,500 years, and include works by Dante, Machiavelli, Homer, Herodotus, and Plato.  Amongst this collection can be found an interesting letter from a citizen of Athens to the then Roman Emperor, pleading for fair and reasonable treatment of Christians and amongst the maps a Geographical Survey of Ireland printed in Dublin in 1840, which warns of the disastrous effects of continuing to plant the potato crop.

The collection, currently securely housed in the Chapter House of the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, has been traditionally cared for by the local Protestant Clergy and despite its immediate proximity to the Rock of Cashel, this rare collection is little-known and has attracted few visitors down the years.

Dr. Martin Mansergh, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and the Arts, said a new visitor facility would be established at the Chapter House, which will form part of the Rock of Cashel complex which he described as “Ireland’s Mediaeval Acropolis”. He hoped the extra visitor centre would add significantly to the capacity of Cashel to absorb increased numbers of visitors, and act as a signpost to the other attractions within the town.

Minister Mansergh stated:

“The site will be managed jointly by the Library of the University of Limerick and the OPW. The building will be acquired by the Irish State on a long-term lease from the Representative Church  Body of the Church of Ireland, while the book collection will remain on site, but ownership will in due course be lodged with Marsh’s Library, Saint Patrick’s Close, Dublin, the latter founded in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh as the first public library in Ireland”.

A ‘Board of Visitors’ or advisory body will now be set up comprising representatives from the OPW, the Church of Ireland, the University of Limerick and other interested bodies, to draw on their expertise in the management of the library.

Here’s hoping a decision to move the collection to Dublin is not envisuaged in the future – Dublin enriches itself enough at the great expense of rural Tipperary. e.g., The Derrynaflann Hoard found 17th February 1980 near Killenaule, Thurles, County Tipperary.

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