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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

10,000 Famous Freemasons Again Available

The strictly Masonic publishing business is, frankly, a terrible business to be in. Any man who wakes up one morning and says, "You know, I think I'd like to be in the Masonic publishing business" should be beaten immediately over the head with a tire iron by his significant other. You have a limited audience to sell books to, and if you have no other popular subjects or titles that you can subsidize it with, the Masonic world just doesn't support its publications. We've lost Stephen Dafoe's excellent Masonic Magazine this year after just eight issues, because it was nothing but a money loser, in spite of having the best new Masonic articles published anywhere. His was, by the way, the only magazine that actually paid its authors - something Freemasonry Today and The Square do not do.

Brother Michael Poll has labored in the Masonic publishing business for several years. His Cornerstone Books are high-quality publications, and a good mix of reprinted classics from the fraternity's great authors of the past, as well as new, more modern books. They are not inexpensive, but they are well-crafted books that will last.

Which brings me to his newest offering. William Denslow published a massive reference work that is indispensable to the Masonic researcher. 10,000 Famous Freemasons was originally a four-volume set of books published in the 1950s, and is the only serious attempt ever made on such a large scale to catalogue the most famous or accomplished brethren known to be Freemasons. It has been out of print since the 1960s, and complete versions sell on ebay for hundreds of dollars, on the few occasions they can be found (last one I saw on Abebooks went for $865!). The only alternative was the expensive, 2 volume phone-book-sized, poor quality reprint made by Kessinger Publishing (not to knock friends at Kessinger and their astonishing catalogue of Masonic, esoteric, Rosicrucian and other antiquarian reprints - without them so many books from our past would be lost forever, and they perform an invaluable service to us all. I myself own more than 30 of their books).

Michael Poll has done the Craft a great service by offering a new version of 10,000 Famous Freemasons. Not just a Xerox copy or a badly scanned version - Michael has painstakingly re-typeset the entire four volume set, and made spelling and historical corrections. In addition, the last volume of the original version had included a revised Addenda with several hundred entries discovered while the later volumes were being researched. Michael has put the entries from the Addenda in the body of the other volumes, so the entire set now makes sense from an alphabetical point of view.

Lodge, Grand Lodge and university libraries, along with Masonic authors and academic researchers should all pony up for this important work. No, it's not cheap. The 4-volume set in paperback is $155, while the hardback version is $259. Be aware each book is 300-400 pages, and obviously with a limited number of us out in the countryside who will want it. Masonic publishers can't publish this kind of major work for free. Please support their important work. Buy a book. More important, buy these books.

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