The Rare Book Room

Developing a number of QR codes around the Museum and Library to make the walk-through experience a bit more interactive.  I developed one for the Rare Book Room which can easily be missed by a patron walking through the library.  It is kept locked with the lights out when not in use.  That appearance betrays the fascinating contents within it.

The James Fairbairn Smith Rare Book Room is a storage area for many of our oldest and unusual books. The climate is controlled in this room to protect its contents. Some of our earliest texts include Masonic books published around the time of the American revolution and a French Masonic ritual from the early 1700s.

An overwhelming majority of the books are Masonic. A few miscellaneous texts about non-Masonic esoteric subjects are also included. The rare book room is a lasting memorial to James Fairbairn Smith, an eminent patron of the Michigan Masonic Museum and Library and a mason whose book collection formed the corpus of the library’s collection.

The Library is very proud to have a nearly complete set of bound volumes of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 of London, the premier lodge of Masonic Research in the world.  The earliest volumes of our Ars collection are stored in the Rare Book Room.  The Proceedings of Quatuor Coronati represent just one of several research lodge transactions we have in the library collection.  We also maintain extensive holdings of Allied Masonic Degree Publications, the Lodge of Research No. 2429 Leicester, California Lodge of Research (LOR), Texas (LOR), North Carolina (LOR), and 15 to 20 other research lodges from around the world.

Several examples of early national and regional masonic publications are maintained in the rare book room. Often such publications were published as monthly serials and were later available for sale in bound volumes. The shelf shown above displays the Museum and Library’s holdings of the The Michigan Freemason. This publication was devoted to ‘Masonic and home literature’ and had the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Michigan, J Foster Pratt M.D. as its Editor. A copy of the index page of Volume 5 of The Michigan Freemason can be downloaded here.

Also included in the rare book room are several examples of early Masonic multi-volume libraries.  This set, she Universal Masonic Library was published in 30 volume in the mid 1850s by the well known Masonic author and poet, Rob Morris, who was also distinguished as one of the early founders of the Order of Eastern Star.  Such sets are not available to the general public to review, owing to the fragility of the books.  Our plan is to digitally scan the rare book collection so it can be made available for both scholars and the general membership to enjoy these fascinating period masonic writings.

-RIW

Category(s): Rick's Masonic History Blog

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