Lewis Masonic Book Review

The Genesis of Freemasonry

by David Harrison
Paperback, colour plate section
Available from Lewis Masonic Online Book Shop

Review by Julian Rees

It was only a few years ago that we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first Masonic Grand Lodge in England in 1717. Yet what we know of the ritual practices of Freemasonry at that period is very little indeed. We know something of the Grand Lodge itself and the people who constituted it, among whom is Dr Jean-Théophile Desaguliers, a Huguenot who had to flee France as a child after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and who became the third Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.

David Harrison brings Desaguliers and others to life in this very engaging account of the early days of Freemasonry in England, but he does far more than that, leading us through an examination of the early degree system of the ritual, putting it all in the context of the first half of the 18thC, thereby enabling us to see Freemasonry of the age as part of the socio-political scene rather than an odd leisure pursuit of the nobility and aristocracy. Harrison also mentions the use made by James Anderson of the occult philosopher and alchemist John Dee as a resource for masonic history.

But it is Desaguliers who provides the fascinating element in Harrison’s work. We learn something of Desaguliers’ friendship with Newton and something of Desaguliers’ part in the transition from operative to speculative Freemasonry and the development of the ritual from its original bi-gradal system to the tri-gradal system we know today.
A well written work which will provide much background and new knowledge to our understanding of early Freemasonry.

Review of Tracing Boards
of the Three Degrees
in Craft Freemasonry Explained
New 2nd Edition

by Julian Rees
Paperback, A4, illustrated
Available from Lewis Masonic Online Book Shop

Review by David Harrison

Julian Rees is an established figure in the research of the philosophy of Freemasonry, and this long-awaited new edition of his extremely successful book would be a welcome addition to any Masonic library.

The book reveals a wealth of information about the evolution and development of the Tracing Board, from the early use of floor cloths, carpets and the artistic variations of the early boards of the later eighteenth century.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout, revealing many Tracing Boards, including the famous Harris Boards of the 1840s, it also looks at the boards used in France, Germany, Austria and in the USA.

Rees explains how the symbolism and imagery displayed on the floor cloths and Tracing Boards evolved during the eighteenth century as the designs were influenced from various sources. The union of 1813 certainly effected the design of the boards, with some symbols being dropped by the UGLE and John Harris being awarded the commission for the new design.

Rees discusses a more recent board design, with Lady Frieda Harris (no relation to John Harris) who designed a set of Craft Tracing Boards in the early twentieth century for the International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain. Lady Harris also designed the Thoth Tarot cards with Aleister Crowley, and there are certainly similarities in the imagery on the Tracing Boards.

The book is full of detail in regards to individual lodges and how they expressed themselves with different designs, such as Pilgrim Lodge in London which, when founded in 1779, was a German speaking lodge due to a number of members who were courtiers at the Court of George III, and due to their use of the Schröder ritual, they used a carpet instead of Tracing Boards.

This is the only book to give such a detailed examination of the Tracing Boards – a must for all Freemasons.

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