Definitive Work of Masonic Bibliography
This work is the definitive Masonic bibliography for the first 116 years of Freemasonry in what is now the United States. It is an essential reference not only for Masonic libraries, but for academic and large public libraries. There are copies in the libraries at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia and The Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center.
The bibliography begins with the first Masonic publication in America, Brother Benjamin Franklin's 1734 reprint of James Anderson's 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons. 1734 was the same year Franklin first served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania Masons. Each entry lists an author and/or title, year and place of publication, as well as a physical description, appearance in other bibliographies, sometimes a summary of printing history, content, and the location of every known copy. At the end of volume 2, are author-title, general, and printer-publisher indices.
The research is impeccable, and the printing and binding are superb. The 110-page introduction includes lists of illustrations, short titles of references, a glossary of Masonic terms, calendars, abbreviations and an essay on previous Masonic bibliographies, as well as a solid historical section, in which Walgren begins by discussing Freemasonry in Britain and its early years in America.
Professor Steven C. Bullock (author of Revolutionary Brotherhood) follows with Publishing Masonry: Print and the early American Fraternity, telling the reader that with more than 5000 different books and pamphlets, and nearly three dozen Masonic periodicals, early American Freemasonry happily took advantage of the press. Only rituals remained secret, but later many would be printed, at least in code.
Bullock discusses the many editions of Constitutions (or Ahiman Rezons), exposés of Masonry, and periodicals. S. Brent Morris, of the Supreme Council 33º, Southern Jurisdiction, completes the historical section with his essay on The Early Development of the High Degrees (those "beyond" that of Master Mason) and the work of Thomas Smith Webb and his successor Jeremy Cross, the two great early ritualists.
True to Walgren's friendly nature, among all of these helpful lists and essays, is tucked a wonderful acknowledgement of each of literally hundreds of people and institutions who helped to ferret out specific items, provide illustrations and bibliographic descriptions, and give moral and monetary support.
Kent Walgren wrote somewhat prophetically in his Compiler's Preface, "Like some mountain climbers, some bibliographers die before reaching their goal." Kent finished his work, but was found dead by the delivery man bringing his just-printed copies.
Thus this beautiful work must also serve as Kent's memorial.
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