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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Masonic Book Club Is Reborn By AASR-SJ


by Christopher Hodapp

Lovers of Masonic books can again rejoice - that which was lost has been reborn! After years of hopeful rumors, the Masonic Book Club (MBC), which has been defunct since 2010, has been resurrected by the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction's Supreme Council!



If you've been reading and collecting Masonic books for very long, or if you hang out in Masonic libraries, you doubtless know about a very special series of blue hardback volumes from the Masonic Book Club. Formed in 1970 by Brothers Alphonse Cerza and Louis Williams, the MBC operated out of the Illinois Lodge of Research for forty years, primarily reprinting long out-of-print works of importance, or occasionally obscure gems. Unlike the spate of badly scanned, print on demand reprints like Kessinger editions and their imitators who quickly followed, the numbered MBC volumes were beautiful facsimile editions, printed on quality paper, bound in leather, generally with a new introduction by noted Masonic scholars that brought fresh understanding to the background of the work itself.

Over the years, they published works as varied as both editions of Anderson’s Constitutions, Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected, The Old Gothic Constitutions, Thomas Smith Webb's Freemasons Monitor, The Folger Manuscript, the Trestleboard of the pivotal 1843 Baltimore Convention, John Robison's Proofs Of A Conspiracy, and many more. Introductions were written by brethren like Wallace McCloud, Harry Carr, Dwight L. Smith, Melvin M. Johnson, and others. (See the whole list HERE.)



The MBC was limited to just 999, and eventually 1,500 members, and it was one of the more peculiar and quirky clubs that you just sort of had to know about. You sent in your twenty dollars every year, but there was no announcement, no periodic news or communication, not even an acknowledgement you had joined. Then, sooner or later, a package would arrive in the mail at some point in the year with a new book enclosed. 


Sadly, the final book went out in 2010 after its last president Robin Carr retired. Like so much else with the MBC, there was no announcement. It just ended. But ever since 2016, Illus. S. Brent Morris at the Scottish Rite SJ has told me of the strong desire he and Art De Hoyos have had to resurrect the MBC from the ashes. This has taken many years of work behind the scenes to accomplish, and the announcement is finally official today. 

The Scottish Rite has had a devotion to high quality publications and books for more than twenty years though the Scottish Rite Research Society, but freighted almost exclusively to the works of the Rite itself, not the wider Masonic world. Their support of the MBC as a standalone club and publication arm is a major commitment to Masonic education and enlightenment to the whole fraternity. If you have seen or owned books published by the SRRS over the recent years, you know they are committed to creating high-quality hardback editions.

The MBC's website answers many questions. The new MBC does not have any of the old membership records of the original club. The Directors of that group voted to dissolve several years ago and donated their remaining assets to the AASR-SJ for charitable purposes. The new MBC, alas, does not have any of the old Club's previous volumes for sale. But you will find them all over used book sources like AbeBooks.com.

There will be no dues for the new Club -payments will only be collected as books are ready to be manufactured, and all transactions will be handled exclusively online. Without a rigid calendar driving publications, new books can come out in nine months or eighteen months as resources permit. Book prices are expected to range in the $25 vicinity for pre-publication orders, or $35 retail if you miss the ordering window. Volumes will no longer be numbered, but the good news is that, if the hardback edition sells out, the MBC will make a paperback print-on-demand edition available of the book.

And to the relief of the MBC's older original members, they say they actually intend to communicate with members twice a year with an electronic newsletter to keep everyone in the loop about upcoming volumes in the works and their production status.

More information can be found at the MBC's website HERE. If you are interested, you need to sign up on the website now.

Below is the press release announcement issued today:
The Masonic Book Club (MBC), formed in 1970 by Brothers Alphonse Cerza and Louis Williams, has been restarted fifty years later by the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ USA, to continue the MBC mission of printing fine Masonic books. After forty years of service to the Craft, the directors in 2010 decided to dissolve the original MBC. In 2017 MW Barry Weer, 33°, the last president of the MBC, transferred the MBC name and assets to the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ USA. The revived Masonic Book Club has the goals of publishing classic Masonic books and of supporting Scottish Rite SJ USA philanthropies. Membership is open to anyone 18 years or older interested in the history of Freemasonry and allows them to purchase MBC editions at a pre-publication discount.
The club originally was limited to 333 members, but the number eventually expanded to nearly 2,000, with 1,083 members when it dissolved in 2010. The new MBC will have a different business model from the old. Most significantly, there will be no dues; being a member entitles you to purchase books at a prepublication discount. An editorial committee (Arturo de Hoyos, S. Brent Morris, and others) will select the books using survey feedback from MBC members. The first publication should be announced in early 2021 with anticipated shipment 3–4 months later.
For more details, check out the Masonic Book Club page at https://scottishrite.org/media-publications/masonic-book-club/. For specific questions, write to mbc@scottishrite.org.

4 comments:

  1. Art and Brent are a two person unique university of Masonry. Add Chris as the Reuters and Associated Press and there is a very special source of books, articles and news benefiting all of us.

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  2. I wonder why there is no request for a password at the initial sign-up screen and, also, why you only ask people if they are from the USA, the EU, but not from Canada (I thought we were close friends) or Central or South America. I was a long time member of the MBC, until it disappeared. I am not a member of the AASR, but have been a member of the Craft for almost 46 years, a Past Most in two Masonic bodies and a Right in seven other, including in my current office as Deputy Grand Master Mason for Canada of the Operatives Society. Fr@t.

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    Replies
    1. I don't run the MBC website or have anything to do with it, apart from being an interested bystander. However, as I understand it, the form you filled out merely adds you to their email mailing list for future announcements, at least at this time. There's nothing that is (or needs to be) password protected on the website. And they aren't charging dues, either. When they are ready to actually publish a book, they'll send you an invitation to pre-purchase the book at a lower than retail price for a limited time.

      As for the geographic regions they specified, that MIGHT be an oversight, OR they might be doing a market survey to find out those specific areas' levels of interest. Brent is a strong statistical and demographics guy, so that might be a part of it. But you might drop him a note and ask, just in case it was an error on their part.

      (As I reconsider it, it MIGHT also have to do with those other regions' Internet commerce laws that have changed in the last few years. It might be as simple as whether they are required to send notices about cookies or personal data handling before adding a name to a subscription list. The web gets more complicated every day.)

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  3. The simplest explanation is the best one. :-) We're trying to set up a lean and mean organization with little infrastructure. Keeping track of addresses and dues payments for (we hope) several thousand people requires infrastructure. Maintaining a mailing list requires little infrastructure or security.

    The geographic regions are simply to comply with e-commerce laws. Our general counsel advises that the world is divided into three parts: US, EU/EEA, all the rest.

    We are also not individually numbering the books because of logistics. It's one thing to say, "Mail these 1000 books to these 1000 addresses." It's quite another to say, "Mail these 1000 books and be sure book #X goes to customer #X."

    Finally, by not charging dues in advance we don't need to estimate postage in advance. Purchases will be made only a few months before shipping, so we should accurately know the postage and can charge accordingly.

    S. Brent Morris
    Manager, Masonic Book Club

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