Vol. XLIII No. 2 — February 1965

Starting a Lodge Library

Conrad Hahn

A frequent request to the Masonic Service Association asks for suggestions about starting a little lodge library. This Short Talk Bulletin is intended to help the Masons, or group of brethren, who are interested in such a project for their local lodges.

Naturally, this advice will reflect the personal tastes of the writer, especially in the choice of some of the books suggested. However, the selections have been made as objectively as it is possible for one Mason to do. The books listed “have stood the test of time.”

Furthermore, there is an obvious lack of titles of Masonic books published abroad. The reasons for this are two: such volumes are not always easily acquired; those dealing with the ritual, symbolism, or lodge procedures introduce words and ideas not familiar to the average American Mason.

Although some of the books mentioned in this pamphlet are out of print, they are included as desirable for the little lodge library. Copies can sometimes be procured from secondhand book stores. Individual brethren sometimes have one or more of them in their personal libraries. If their enthusiasm can be enlisted for the library project, they may be willing to place some of the volumes where they will help other “seekers of the Light.”

Other interested brethren could be encouraged to present a gift book to the lodge library on their Masonic birthdays or other significant occasions.

Not every book mentioned need be acquired immediately. A variety is offered in each classification so that the founders of a new lodge library will have some freedom of choice.

In some towns and cities it is possible, in lieu of a lodge library, to arrange a shelf in the local public library.

The more the brethren use such a service, the more the librarian will see the need for books about Masonry. A demand for certain books helps a library board to determine what books should be added to the collections.

First Requirements

If a lodge library is to become an enduring part of the lodge’s Masonic life and activities, it requires two essential conditions for its vigor and continuity: a place and a responsible director.

The first may be regarded as most desirable, but not always possible. If a small room, or a corner of a larger public room is available for the library, the lodge should agree to set it aside for that purpose. A few comfortable chairs and well-placed reading lamps, grouped around a table for periodicals and magazines, may be arranged near the bookcases containing the library volumes. If possible, these cases should be the kind that prevent the books from collecting dust, yet seem to invite the casual reader to come and browse.

Even if no such space is available, a cabinet or closet should be reserved for the lodge library, so that the books can be kept together and preserved. With such an arrangement, however, the lodge librarian will have to use more “gimmicks,” to stimulate his brethren to read books that they cannot readily see.

The second condition is a sine qua non. Without a responsible librarian or committee, who will take pains to manage a little library faithfully and thoroughly, the lodge library will last only as long as the enthusiasm of its founders or as long as it takes the books to disappear into members’ homes or elsewhere.

Someone has to keep track of the books, to check them out and in again. Someone has to be in charge of the library’s development, to see that new acquisitions are bought or donated, and that worn or damaged copies are replaced or repaired. A lodge librarian can be one of the important “officers” of the lodge, and his services will help to advance one of the Fraternity’s greatest objectives: “to teach men a moral philosophy.” Without such a devoted director (or a committee of such directors), a lodge library will sparkle briefly but sputter out into oblivion.

Basic Reference Books

To answer the greatest number of questions that Masons will direct to a lodge library, it should have certain general reference books that are never removed from the location of the library. First among these volumes should be the annual Proceedings of the grand lodge and any other grand lodge volumes of rules and regulations (like the Code; Constitution, Laws, Rules, and Regulations), as well as all officers’ handbooks and manuals published by the grand lodge.

Encyclopedias are standard reference books for any field of study. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (revised by Robert I. Clegg), including the supplementary third volume by H. L. Haywood, together with the more recent Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, which develops topics from the historical point of view, are the foundation books for students of Freemasonry. If funds for the library are so limited that only these two titles can be purchased, these should become the beginning of a little lodge library.

Another valuable collection of Masonic writings, which supply “a little of everything” in the way of history, philosophy, symbolism, jurisprudence, custom, etc. is the Little Masonic Library in five volumes. Later references in this Short Talk will indicate its usefulness in different areas of Masonic inquiry.

Books for Beginners

One of the principal reasons advanced for setting up a lodge library is “to get new members interested in Masonic reading.” Books for beginners, therefore, should get priority in the collection of books for the lodge. One volume may be mentioned as “required reading” for every new Mason, if such compulsion were compatible with Masonry’s principles: Joseph Fort Newton’s The Builders. The background and spirit of the ancient society have never been explained more inspiringly.

Carl H. Claudy’s Introduction to Freemasonry will give every new brother a thorough understanding of what his membership means as well as of what is going on in lodge. A similarly useful book is Harry L. Haywood’s The Newly-Made Mason. That author’s More About Masonry makes a good “second dose.” For the inquiring brother who wants capsule information about the origin, structure, and meaning of Freemasonry and its related organizations, Robert L. Lewinski’s pocket booklet, What Is Freemasonry?, is recommended.

Other helpful little books, and still inexpensive, are What? When? Where? Why? Who? in Freemasonry, One Hundred and One Questions about Freemasonry, Pocket Encyclopedia of Masonic Symbols, and Pocket Masonic Dictionary, all published by The Masonic Service Association.


History probably appeals to the general Masonic reader more than philosophy or specialized studies of the symbols and ritual of the Craft. For the beginner in American Freemasonry, Henry W. Coil’s A Comprehensive View of Freemasonry is a compact and readable introduction to the history of the Craft.

The standard reference work in this area is the six volume Gould’s History of Freemasonry, which includes sections on the history of United States grand lodges; but for a small library Gould’s one volume Concise History of Freemasonry is adequate. However, a one volume history of the Fraternity more suitable for the American Mason can be found in Haywood and Craig’s A History of Freemasonry. Pick and Knight’s Pocket History of Freemasonry may answer the needs of the reader who wants a small book to carry around in his coat.

When enough readers have progressed to the point where they want more than “a survey course” in Masonic history, the librarian should consider adding such titles as The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America, by Melvin M. Johnson; Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies, by J. Hugo Tatsch; George Washington, Freemason, by William Moseley Brown; and Territorial Freemasonry, by Ray V. Denslow.

The Masonic membership of American patriots of the Revolutionary era has always interested Masonic readers. The Masonic Service Association has published a number of pamphlets about these “founding fathers.” Ronald Heaton’s Masonic Membership of the Founding Fathers in which the Masonic membership (or lack of it) of 241 such patriots is analyzed.

The Little Masonic Library mentioned among the “Reference Books” above contains a number of worthwhile historical sketches for the general Masonic reader: The Morgan Affair, by John C. Palmer (Vol. 2); Great American Masons, by George W. Baird (Vol. 4); and Freemasonry in the American Revolution, by Sidney Morse (Vol. 3). A facsimile reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions of Freemasonry, 1723, the book “that started it all,” can be found in volume one of the Little Masonic Library.


Part of the history of Freemasonry is the story of the attacks made on it by its enemies. It deserves a special category because of the widespread interest in it. The best general book in this field is Alphonse Cerza’s Anti-Masonry, published in 1962 by the Missouri lodge of Research. Freemasonry and Roman Catholicism by Harry L. Haywood is still a most readable volume for its particular use.

The Little Masonic library (Vol. 2) contains an essay by John C. Palmer entitled Anti-Masonry. The researcher in this field cannot be without Dr. William S. Cummings’ A Bibliography of Anti-Masonry. As an interesting story by one of the Fraternity’s opponents, Revolution and Freemasonry, 1680-1800 will provide some challenging information. It was written by the French scholar, Bernard Fay, who was convicted of collaboration with the Nazis in France during World War II.


A Masonic library must have some books on symbolism, the foundation stone of Masonic teaching and philosophy. One or two of the following titles provide good introductions to this subject for the general reader: Symbolism of the Three Degrees, Oliver Day Street; Symbolical Masonry, Harry L. Haywood; Masonic Symbolism, Charles C. Hunt; Speculative Masonry, A. S. McBride; and Some Thoughts on Masonic Symbolism, Charles C. Hunt.

Mackey’s Symbolism of Freemasonry, revised by Robert I. Clegg, is another valuable study of the Fraternity’s symbols; while the Pocket Encyclopedia of Masonic Symbols listed in the “Books for Beginners” is a handy reference book for short definitions of the devices used in Masonic teaching.

Philosophy and Ideals

From a study of the Fraternity’s symbols the thoughtful reader will probably proceed to a consideration of Masonic ideas and philosophy. In this area there is a “God’s plenty” indeed! The Great Teachings of Masonry by Harry L. Haywood is an excellent starting point. It may be followed by such books as Joseph Fort Newton’s The Men’s House and The Religion of Freemasonry.

For the mature Masonic reader Roscoe Pound’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry in his Masonic Addresses and Writings are very helpful, as is the Ethics of Freemasonry by Dudley Wright in volume four of the Little Masonic Library. Elbert Bede’s little volume on The Landmarks of Freemasonry is a good introduction to that controversial area of Masonic ideas. Some excellent papers on Masonic philosophy are preserved in the annual Proceedings of the Conference of Grand Masters.

For United States Masons interested in the subject of “Americanism,” two essays in the Little Masonic Library will suggest some worthwhile thoughts: Masonry and the Flag (Vol. 3) and Masonry and Americanism (Vol. 5). Some brethren like to delve into the area of mysticism and the esoteric. For them one or more of the following books would be very stimulating: Freemasonry’s Hidden Meaning and The Lost Word: Its Hidden Meaning, both by George H. Steinmetz. The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry, by A. E. Waite, is a “classic” in this particular field.

Law and Jurisprudence

Lodge officers frequently become interested in questions of Masonic law and jurisprudence. For them the lodge library should have available all grand lodge publications dealing with these subjects: the Code, the Rules and Regulations, officers’ Manuals, Trial Procedure, and Digests of Decisions by grand masters.

Mackey’s Jurisprudence of Freemasonry, revised by Robert I. Clegg, is the best “all-around” handbook for the general reader of jurisprudence; but one can also recommend Roscoe Pound’s Masonic Jurisprudence (in his Masonic Addresses and Writings), and Silas Shepherd’s The Ancient Landmarks, in volume one of the Little Masonic Library. For the lawyer interested in actual lawsuits in which Freemasonry has been involved W. Irvine Wiest’s Freemasonry in American Courts is a “must.”

Procedure in Lodge

In this category the first suggestion is to have on hand the grand lodge publications dealing with lodge methods, the duties of officers, proper lodge management, etc. Hie grand secretary can supply these titles.

The following little books have won acclaim for their thorough coverage of the subject treated and for the practicality of the suggestions offered: Carl H. Claudy’s The Master’s Book; Masonic Lodge Methods, L. B. Blakemore; Our Stations and Places, Henry G. Meacham; and The Secretary’s Book, by Arthur R. Herrmann. Blakemore’s book is a valuable compendium for many sources of Masonic information.

Purely “literary works,” i.e., compositions intended primarily to amuse or entertain, are relatively few in Masonic writings. Newton’s The Builders has this quality as an inspirational story, but Carl H. Claudy is probably remembered as modern Freemasonry’s story teller. His novel, The Lion’s Paw, has had a wide circulation. His collections of Masonic stories, These Were Brethren and Masonic Harvest, are still in demand, while his conversational essays, Old Tiler Talks, are still being widely reprinted in Masonic journals. A Master’s Wages, a “classic” in the field of Masonic essays, can be found in volume four of the Little Masonic Library.

The Lodge in Friendship Village, a collection of short stories by P. W. George, was one of the first pieces of Masonic literature to be popularized. A Treasury of Masonic Thought, by Carl Glick, will answer requests for “quotable quotes” for Masonic writers and speakers.


To the lodge librarian or committee must be left the decision about which magazines or newspapers should be made available to readers in the lodge library. Of Masonic periodicals the first to be supplied should be the official publication of the grand lodge, if it produces one.

A few Masonic magazines from other jurisdictions would help the members of the lodge to broaden their Masonic interests and to appreciate the “universality of Freemasonry.” There are so many of these that one hesitates to mention any one of them, but to “start somewhere.” It is suggested that the following have outstanding qualities of more than local readability and “impact” — The Indiana Freemason, The California Freemason, The Empire State Mason, The Texas Freemason, and The Pennsylvania Freemason. These periodicals may be subscribed to by inquiring of the grand secretary in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Other Masonic publications should also be given consideration, whenever the budget or an interested brother can supply copies of them. The official publication of the Philalethes Society, The Philalethes, is one of the most valuable. Lodges under the jurisdiction of grand lodges that belong to The Masonic Service Association of the United States receive each month (through the master, secretary, or lodge education officer) a copy of this publication, The Short Talk Bulletin and its supplement, Your Masonic Hospital Visitor. These publications are the property of the lodge; they should find their way into the lodge library, when the officers have finished using them.

In conclusion, let the founders of a little lodge library keep these principles in mind. If Freemasonry is truly an educational and philosophic society, the lodge should have among its resources the means for learning and studying about the Fraternity — a library. A genuine speculative Mason can no more do without Masonic books than an operative mason could work without his tools, the gavel, rule, and plumb, or the square, and compasses, and trowel.

However, before one may expect a lodge or interested owners of Masonic books to provide them for a library at the lodge, the brethren must be assured that these speculative tools will be properly used and taken care of. Operative masons used their tools and considered the lodge a secure place in which to leave them. The lodge library should enjoy a similar confidence and use. Look well to the books, brother librarian!

The Masonic Service Association of North America