BOLTON’S librarians have been opening the covers of some of the town’s rarest books.

As part of the celebrations for Libraries Week, staff at the Central Library have been delving into their rare book collection, allowing the public to get up close to some of their greatest treasures.

There are around 300 rare books in the library’s special collection and information enquiry officer Steven Hartshorne selected nine of them for his illustrated talk entitled Bolton’s Beautiful Books.

Among the works brought out of storage was the collection’s oldest book, the Historia Scholastica by Petrus Comestor which was printed, in Latin, in Augsburg, Germany, in 1473.

The precious item was written as a teaching bible for use in monasteries and universities. “It was on university syllabuses in the 15th century,” said Mr Hartshorne.

Other books shown to the fascinated audience included two volumes which were beautifully bound by local female bookbinder, RS Bland-Watson.

“Unfortunately we know very little about her,” said Mr Hartshorne.

Books do not have to be large to be interesting as illustrated by the vellum-bound, pocket-sized, Orbis Phaethon.

It was published in 1630 and is an illustrated dictionary of bad language.

“Presumably it was a convenient size so that you can carry it around and whip it out when you feel the urge to swear,” said Mr Hartshorne.

Bolton libraries have been collecting books since they opened in 1853, with many of the prized possessions donated by wealthy or philanthropic individuals from their own collections.

Around 200 items in the rare collection are Private Press books, high-quality volumes, hand-printed and bound by craftsmen.

Many of these were acquired by Archibald Sparke, the service’s first professional librarian, between 1904 and 1931.

Financial constraints mean that no further works have been purchased for the collection since the early 1970s but gems still keep emerging.

“We are turning things up all the time,” said Mr Hartshorne, who explained that a Hebrew Book of Psalms dating back to 1710 was recently discovered in the library’s general collection by a borrower.

Mr Hartshorne is hoping more members of the public will be able to enjoy the treasures in the collection when they go on a rotating permanent display once building works at the museum are completed.

“They have been collected for the benefit of the people of Bolton and it is nice to show them off now and again,” said Mr Hartshorne.

“Bolton has this sort of material and there is no need to go to London or Manchester — you can see it here.”