Sunday, December 11, 2011

Binding Beauty: Masonic Books

 Masons are known for their love of beautiful things.  The belief is held that external beauty is a sign of internal virtues.  Objects that show the highest craftsmanship display attributes of their maker that are highly desirable in a refined man, such as attention to detail, patience, ├Žsthetic sensitivity, and imagination.  Many Masons also seem to have a nearly inordinate love of books.  The combination of these two interests has led to the creation of many very beautiful books.  Here are just a few:

      "The Constitutions of the Free-Masons," 1723.  This photograph shows the attention that was lavished on a rather utilitarian book.  A full page engraving faces the title page, which shows beautiful typesetting.   Benjamen Franklin republished this, making it the first Masonic book published in America.

      This is a special edition binding of Albert Pike's "Esoterika."  It is bound in a dark blue Morocco with tooling in gold.  The top edge is gilt, and the endpapers are marbled by hand.

  This is a Book of Marks, where York Rite Masons record their personal marks.

     The 1914 edition of Albert Mackey's "Encyclopedia of Freemasonry" shows beautiful blind-stamping and embossing.

     Upon being raised to the degree of Master Mason, the Lodge presents the new Master Mason with a Bible.  Often times these are beautiful custom bound books, meant to be read and enjoyed for a lifetime. 

     This lovely book is "The Illustrated History of Freemasonry" by Moses Wolcott Redding, 1900.

     This is the title page to a collection of presentations given by Simon Greenleaf in 1820.

     "The Masonik Minstrel" from 1816 is an example of understated elegance.  The binding is simple, but well made, fitting nicely in the hand, and a pleasure to use.  It is a collection of songs to be sung on every type of Masonic occasion.

      This is my own Cipher.  When it was given to me it was a simple pamphlet, stapled down the middle.  I had heard many stories of ciphers being passed down through several generations, and I decided that if I wanted to someday pass mine on, it had better be in a binding that would survive the passage of time, and one that I could be proud to pass on.

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