Jim Tresner, 33
Books about Masonry are not the only sources of Masonic information or information interesting to those who love Freemasonry. This month, I'd like to call to your attention some varied media and publications which can add much to your enjoyment of the Fraternity and four of its outstanding members.
Biblical Archaeology Review published every other month by the Biblical Archaeology Society, P.O. Box 7026, Red Oak, IA 51591. Subscription $14.97 for one year; $26.95 for two years.
The title of this publication can seem a little daunting, but its style is easy to read. You don't have to be a specialist in either the Bible or archaeology to enjoy this beautiful magazine. BAR (as it's usually known) prints the latest findings in the archaeology of the Holy Land with excellent photographs and drawings in full color. It is especially interesting to anyone who cares about the context and settings of the Degrees of Masonry. It's also an excellent publication for a Lodge or Temple library to order and maintain on file.
Articles in recent issues of special interest to Masons include a diagram of the foundations of Solomon's Temple and the foundation niche for the Ark, now covered by the Dome of the Rock; an identification of the lands given to King Hiram by Solomon, with indications of Phoenician architecture there; discoveries of the foundation of Solomon's stables (or storehouses); articles about the Essenes, and a great deal more, especially about the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The editors and writers do a first-rate job of keeping things clear and easy to understand. Because it's such a joy to read, I often give a subscription to this magazine as a Christmas or Hanukkah present. When you are making up your holiday gift list, keep it in mind!
Mucha Art Nouveau Masterpieces in Full Color (2 vols. 128 pp., softbound, $19.90) and Drawings of Mucha (softbound, 75 pp., $7.95), Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501. Regardless of the number of books ordered, add $3.00 for shipping and handling.
The February 1996 issue of the Scottish Rite Journal carried an excellent article about Alphonse M. Mucha, the second Sovereign Grand Commander of Czechoslovakia and one of the most important artists of the early part of this century. Space limitations restricted the number of illustrations of his works which could be presented in the article. These books from Dover publications give an excellent overview of his work. The two-volume set, Mucha Art Nouveau Masterpieces in Full Color, provides 112 plates of his designs. With 70 illustrations, Drawings of Mucha traces his development as an artist over more than 40 years.
One advantage of ordering is that you get on the Dover Publications mailing list. Be sure to ask them to include a complete catalogue with your order. Dover publishes thousands of books in every field imaginable, and at some of the best prices you'll find anywhere.
Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns by Ian McIntyre, Hardbound, 461 pages with illustrations, Harper-Collins-World, $32.00, to order call 1-800-242-7737 or fax 1-800-822-4090.
Robert Burns is, of course, known generally as the "Poet Laureate of Masonry." Considering the work he wrote for the Craft, this is surely a justified title. In its Burnsiana Room, the House of the Temple contains one of the finest collections of works by and about Burns. This book is a worthwhile addition to that room and a good book for anyone who either loves Burns's work, or knows nothing about him and would like to get to know him. Written with style and with an occasional undertone of dry humor, the writer lets Burns and his friends speak for themselves in letters he wrote and in letters they wrote to him.
The book's title is fully justified. Burns wrote some sublime poetry, some vicious satiric verse, and some verses which are just plain "dirty." But they are all part of this interesting and complex man. McIntyre dwells neither on the dirt nor the deity, but presents both fairly. While there is less information about Burns's Masonic career than I would have wished, there are nuggets scattered here and there. (For instance, McIntyre points out that Masonry in Scotland was as prone to schism as was the church.) The book is honest, but not uncharitable, and casts a fascinating light on this fascinating Brother. It is, far and away, the best biography of Burns I have read.
For those who would like more information about Burns, especially his Masonic career, two Short Talk Bulletins are available from The Masonic Service Association, 8120 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910-4785. Each costs $0.50, which includes postage.
Robert Burns was printed in June, 1923. It is a somewhat more romantic treatment of Burns than the book above, but it has valuable information about his Masonic activities. Order No. 6-23.
Auld Lang Syne focuses on that famous song, but also has some interesting information about Masonic conviviality in the 18th Century. It's well worth reading. Order No. 12-95.
George Washington Visits His Masonic Lodge with William Sommerfield as George Washington, Capstone Productions, Inc., 12002 Citrus Grove Rd., North Potomac, MD 20878. VHS videotape, 30 minutes, $20 + $5 shipping and handling.
On February 17, 1996, the 194th Annual George Washington Banquet of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, was held at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Those attending the dinner were considerably surprised when Brother Washington himself showed up. Actually, Brother Washington was portrayed by William Sommerfield, one of a company of performers in the area who specialize in the recreation of persons from history.
This video is both entertaining and informative, and it offers a different perspective on the life of our famous Brother. Those who see Washington only as a rather stiff and unapproachable figure in history are in for a surprise.
Since it is a video of a live performance, the sound quality is that of a live room filled with people rather than the sharp sound-against-silence we're accustomed to in television shot in a studio. For me, it simply adds to the charm and reality of the production.
Capstone Productions, of course, is well-known to Masons for having produced the excellent videos on the reenactments of the laying of the cornerstones of the National Capitol and of the White House, as well as several other excellent videotapes, including the company's new Masonic Forum video magazine series. Be sure to ask for a catalogue.
Musique Religieuse by Jean Sibelius, Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., Inc., P.O. Box 9759, Richmond, VA 23228. Audio cassette, Cat. # 1000, $15.95 + $4.25 shipping & handling.
Many of the world's great composers have been Masons, but only a few have written music for use in the Lodge. Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer (1865-1957), is one of the most outstanding. Musique Religieuse is both great listening and useful in Lodge. Macoy includes a sheet which suggests places in which the music can be used during the Degrees. Composed for organ, solo voices and men's chorus, it is a great man's musical tribute to the Craft he loved.