Albert Mackey once lamented that American Freemasons don't read, and the handful of Americans who have made a stab at being specifically Masonic publishers can tell you it's an ideal formula for going broke slowly. French Masons aren't afflicted with that character quirk. If you've ever visited a Masonic bookstore in Paris you know that the French have an insatiable appetite for books about Freemasonry. Consequently, each year, the Institut Maçonnique de France (Masonic Institute of France) hosts an enormous book fair in Paris for the purpose of promoting Masonic literature throughout the entire French speaking Masonic community.
It's a shame that we don't have anything similar in this country.
The Salon Maçonnique du Livre de Paris (Masonic Salon of the Book in Paris) on November 16-17 will be its 17th year. This year's venue will again be at La Bellevilloise at 19 Rue Boyer, in Paris' 20th Arrondissement.
From a prior press release:
Organized by the Institut Maçonnique de France, this event is a unique opportunity for all audiences to discover Freemasonry by the prism of culture and literature in contact: from a village composed of the 16 main persuasions of French Masonry of over 60 authors and designers of many publishers of books, magazines, comics.
To answer all your questions, you will be able to meet and attend and participate in ten roundtables, three conferences, as well as the many signing sessions.
The Masonic Salon of the Paris book is free and open to the public
- 16 French persuasions present
- 8 round tables
- 3 conferences
- dozens of book publishers, magazines and comics
- scores of authors
- books to win
- catering on site and many restaurants and breweries nearby
What's always been interesting about French Masonry is how diverse (Oy! that word...) it is. While U.S. grand lodges only recognize the Grande Loge Nationale Française, the GLNF is NOT the largest or the oldest. There are no less than sixteen substantial grand bodies and obediences of Freemasons at work in that country – male, female and mixed, regular and irregular. And they all participate in this annual literary gathering.
In the U.S., most Masons are blissfully (or deliberately) unaware of obediences outside of their own and those that are declared regular and are recognized by their own grand lodges. In this country, that's pretty easy to do. If you're in a mainstream lodge, you probably don't think very much about it. If you're in a Prince Hall lodge, it's sometimes a tighter circle, but you're still probably at least aware of what the mainstream world is doing, and in all but a few remaining states, you also have options to intervisit. But virtually no one in these two largest Masonic blocs in America have any idea what goes on in the other various independent, female or mixed Masonic obediences here, and all of our paths cross so infrequently (apart from online, perhaps) that the subject almost never arises at all.
That's not the case when it comes to France. Instead of deliberately ignoring each other and pretending that the others don't exist, French Masons tend to be far more cordial and, well, laissez faire than we are. There are numerous cultural and historical reasons for that which simply don't exist elsewhere in the Masonic world. As a result, an event like this annual book fair brings all of them together and gives Masons the opportunity to informally discuss the things they share in common and the ways in which their fraternity variations diverge in a cordial and un-pressured atmosphere. Combine that with the longstanding French tradition of academic curiosity and philosophical thought, and you get an enormous and exciting trove of material each year that explores Freemasonry's philosophy and history that has no equivalent in the English-speaking world.
On Sunday they will announce various annual literary awards specifically for Masonic books and publications. And this year they've added a new category for Best Masonic Magazine.
For news of the Masonic Book Fair in Paris:
Facebook: the page of the Masonic Book Fair in Paris
Facebook: the IMF Group: Masonic Institute of France
Website of the Masonic Institute of France: http://i-m-f.fr
A video of the 2015 event can be viewed on the GLNF Facebook page HERE.
By the way, don't be put off by La Bellevilloise as a convention venue. Yes, there is a hammer and sickle of the Communist Party over the door. Paris is a very big and very old city, and they tend to reuse old buildings instead of tearing them down as we do in the U.S. The historic building has been home to several different organizations over the decades, which explains the hammer and sickle.
So no, if you cruised in here looking for dirt, it doesn't mean that Freemasons are Communists. It means the rent is cheap and there's a Metro station close by.