"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Starting A Masonic Library

A brother on a Masonic forum was starting a library for his Indiana lodge, and was looking for a list of books to start with (I mean, once you have exhausted the obvious and the equally excellent, if only slightly less obvious).

Here were my first-round suggestions, in no particular order. Undoubtedly I've left off someone's favorite. Most can be had from Amazon or Abebooks, but I've linked to a couple that you should order directly from the publisher.

  • Coil's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, the 1996 revision.
  • James Anderson's Constitutions of both 1723 and 1738
  • Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected
  • William Preston's Illustrations of Masonry
  • Freemasons Monitor by Thomas Smith Webb - very important, as it set US Masons (except Pennsylvania) onto a standardized path for ritual.
  • Harry L. Haywood's Newly Made Mason
  • Joseph Fort Newton's The Builders and The Men's House
  • The Little Masonic Library
  • Masonic Enlightenment edited by Michael Poll
  • Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century by David Stevenson
  • Denslow's 10,000 Famous Freemasons is flawed and dated, but a good starting point.
  • Pike's Morals & Dogma (remember we're in the North here, and our AASR degrees don't have Pike anywhere near them, so M&D generally baffles our new 32° Masons here). Better for a Blue Lodge is his Esoterika, which discusses the first three lodge degrees at length.
  • Stephen Bullock's Revolutionary Brotherhood
  • Mark Tabbert's American Freemasons
  • Jasper Ridley's The Freemasons
  • Allen Roberts' The Craft and Its Symbols
  • Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol by Kirk MacNulty. Another fascinating volume is the French work Symbols of Freemasonry, which is influenced by the Grand Orient of France.
  • Harry Carr's informative The Freemason at Work
  • Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? by S. Brent Morris and Art de Hoyos
  • Robert Cooper's The Rosslyn Hoax
  • Mark C. Carnes' Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America
  • John Robinson's A Pilgrim's Path and Born In Blood (bearing in mind that the latter is largely untrue).
  • The Mythology of the Secret Societies by J.M. Roberts
  • International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders by Axelrod
  • Morgan, the Scandal That Shook Freemasonry by Stephen Dafoe
  • The Enlightenment Reader by Viking Press
  • Hermetica translated by Walter Scott
  • Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation by Henrik Bogdan
  • Eliphas Levi and the Kabbalah by Robert L. Uzzel
  • The Magus of Freemasonry by Tobias Churton
  • Builders of Empire by Jessica Harland-Jacobs
  • Living The Enlightenment by Margaret Jacob
  • Masonic Odes and Poems by Rob Morris
  • Out of the Shadows by Roundtree and Bessel (most recent scholarship on Prince Hall recognition)
  • Black Square and Compasses by Joseph Walkes



  • Goodly Heritage by Dwight L. Smith, written for the 150th anniversary of Freemasonry in Indiana
  • A History of Freemasonry in Indiana from 1806-1898‎ by Daniel McDonald.
  • Bittersweet by Betty Kaufman Stover (the story of the Indiana Masonic Home's orphans)
  • Indianapolis lodges should also look for William English's History of Freemasonry in Indianapolis (1901), and History of the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis 1863-1924 by Charles E. Crawford.
And while you're ordering books, pick up Brad Miner's thoughtful and provocative The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry, and John Bridges' How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, since no one seems to know this stuff anymore.


  1. Excellent list. I'll have to update my wishlist now.

  2. Many thanks for the generous acknowledgement of my CIG.

    Harry Carr produced two outstanding volumes for the Masonic Book Club: "Masonry Dissected," and "Jachin and Boaz" + "Three Distinct Knocks," all wonderfully annotated. These are the definitive editions as of now.

    Don't forget the books of Knoop, Jones, and Hamer, principally "Early Masonic Catechisms" and "Early Masonic Pamphlets."

    These four books reprint the foundational documents of modern Masonic ritual and structure. If you haven't read them, you don't know how ritual evolved or where it came from.

    S. Brent Morris

  3. I would add "The Meaning of Masonry" and "The Masonic Initiation" by W. L. Wilmshurst, and "The Philosophy of Masonry" by Roscoe Pound, 33°. Wilmshurst gives an excellent introduction to where Masonry and mysticism intersect, while Pound's book is, I think, a good introduction to how Masonic Philosophy has evolved from Preston through Pike, and into the 20th century.

  4. The problem with "Early Masonic Catechisms" and "Early Masonic Pamphlets" is availability. They are absolutely indispensable, but hard to find and expensive. They were published in the 1960s. Kessinger briefly offered them in the late 1990s, but I suspect he was bludgeoned over copyright, because he no longer offers them. Knoop's "The Genesis of Freemasonry", and "The Mediaeval Mason" are also excellent.

    Can you influence QC to reprint Catechisms and Pamphlets?

    Another one I thought of is I have seen the advance copy of Michael Halleran's "The Better Angels of Our Nature" about Freemasonry and the Civil War. Absolutely excellent.

  5. A revised and expanded edition of KJ&H "Catechisms" is underway now. It will include the "Airlie Ms," "The Post-Boy Exposure," and a variant edition of "Masonsy Dissected." It was supposed to come out in 2009, but production problems have delayed it. Based on its success, "Pamphlets" is sure to follow.

    You're right about some of the books being out of print and hard to find. But by listing the good out-of-print books, you may save some readers from buying bad ones.


  6. If I may be so bold as to suggest both The Old Tyler Talks,and the Old Past Master Talks by Carl H. Claudy?

    Better yet, just about everything Masonic by Carl Claudy. I'll grant that the language and examples may be a bit dated, but many of the Brothers of my Lodge have enjoyed them.

    Now if the lodge library could get a computer I would suggest the Internet Sacred Texts archive on DVD ROM. All sorts of interesting things to stimulate thought on that.

    Just my $0.02


  7. I'd also like to recommend "The History and Evolution of Freemasonry" by Delmar Darrah if you can find it. It's a fascinating read that covers most of what is presumed to be truth on the history of the Fraternity.

  8. That's why I suggest the Little Masonic Library, as it includes a healthy dose of Claudy's work.

  9. I really liked seeing a subscriptions section. Excellent list.

    Time to go explain to the wife how another webpage as told me to buy more books.


  10. Should I be miffed that you didn't mention Southern California Research Lodge? SCRL is one of the best sources for Masonic Books at a discount. (Sorry, advertisement over.)

  11. What a terrific post. I would just mention a few things:

    --In the subscription department, I would add "Heredom: The Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society." Much of this is on Blue Lodge history and concerns. I venture to call this the finest Masonic research journal published today in America, and perhaps the world.

    --W. Kirk MacNulty's recent "Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance." A fine expession of Freemasonry's visual culture.

    --Angel Millar's "Freemasonry: A History." Thoughtful on the relationship of Freemasonry to esoteric strains of thought.

    For the record, the authors of "Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry?" are de Hoyos and Morris, not the reverse.


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