Hidden gems from the Library and Archives

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen in a museum? Spanning centuries, the unexpected treasures on display at the recently restored Art Deco library include hand-drawn illustrations, curious texts and beguiling bindings. Brought together for the first time, the curated selection you see today will rotate with a new selection in the summer.

Why not delve into our collections to discover your own treasures? Anyone can join as a reader for free.

A feather amongst the leaves
The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720
The Stukeley manuscripts provide a window into the world of an eighteenth-century gentleman. A keen antiquarian, William Stukeley was made a freemason in 1721. His carefully-illustrated manuscripts, reflecting his interests in archaeology, history and religion, were presented to the Museum in 1924.

The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail with peacock feather from The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720

The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail with watercolour illustration from The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720

The Order of the Pillars of Solomon’s Temple Demonstrated, 1720 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Hidden talents
Records of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787 – 1792
Sometimes striking artwork hides within routine lodge records. A Denbigh lawyer, John Owens, is the artist responsible for the beautiful frontispieces. A member of a short-lived lodge in the Welsh borders, Owens was initiated in 1788.

By laws of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787 – 1792 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of illuminated frontispiece from the By Laws of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787

By laws of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787 – 1792 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Iilluminated frontispiece from the Minutes of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1792

Minutes of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787 – 1792 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of illuminated frontispiece from the Minutes of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1792

Minutes of Royal Denbigh Lodge, 1787 – 1792 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Diplomat, freemason, soldier, spy
The Chevalier d’Eon
The transgender former spy and diplomat gave fencing demonstrations in front of royalty as a means of earning an income after she declared herself a woman in 1777. In her former life, D’Eon was a French soldier and London freemason.

The Chevalier d’Eon ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of coloured engraving of the Chevalier d’Eon in a public fencing duel, c.1771

The Chevalier d’Eon ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The world before photography
Watercolours of a lodge room, 1822
Several fine watercolours were discovered among the otherwise perfectly routine membership returns from a lodge. George Salisbury, a member of a travelling lodge meeting in the 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons, was a talented artist. He painted membership certificates and illustrations of the local lodge room at Kaira, India.

Watercolours of a lodge room, 1822 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Internal view of a watercolour of the lodge room at Kaira, 1822

Watercolours of a lodge room, 1822	©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of the internal view of a watercolour of the lodge room at Kaira, 1822

Watercolours of a lodge room, 1822 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Permission to meet
A lodge Bible with warrant pocket
A strikingly-bound volume reveals a pocket for holding a lodge warrant – the authority for a lodge to meet. In 1789 William Mourgue, an army officer, presented the Bible to a lodge meeting in the 18th Regiment of Foot at Gibraltar.

A lodge Bible with warrant pocket ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The lodge warrant found inside the pocket of the Bible, 1789

A lodge warrant from Bible pocket ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

A watercolour treasure trove
French Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite ritual, c.1810
Ritual books from overseas often reveal surprising details. Such rich illustrations provide a rare glimpse of the colourful costumes that form such a central part of masonic life. Although our library has many ritual books, only a handful are decorated in this way.

French Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ritual, c.1810 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail featuring the 27th degree Commander of the Temple of the French Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ritual, c.1810

French Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ritual, c.1810 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The first of its kind
The Ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising by George Claret, 1840
The enterprising ritualist, George Claret is responsible for a piece of masonic history. His printed text is the basis of all lodge rituals which exist today. Initiated in a London lodge in 1812, Claret became a significant figure in the world of masonic publishing.

The Ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising by George Claret, 1840 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Title page from The Ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising by George Claret, 1840

The Ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising by George Claret, 1840 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Tokens of esteem
Illuminated address to William Wix on his appointment as Provincial Grand Master for Essex, 1801
Illuminated addresses are artworks in their own right and were a popular way for freemasons to celebrate achievements. Early examples were often lavishly illustrated and coloured by hand. They were clearly treasured by recipients as over 500 examples survive in our collections.

Illuminated address to William Wix on his appointment as Provincial Grand Master for Essex, 1801 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of Memento Mori beneath symbols of freemasonry from the Illuminated address to William Wix

Illuminated address to William Wix ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

The rise of the Pug
The Order of the Mopses
Pugs have been popular for a long time. In 1740, after the first papal ban on freemasonry, some German Catholics – men and women – formed a society, offering fraternity without swearing an oath. They called themselves the Order of the Mopses, after the German word ‘Mops’, meaning pug dog.

The Order of the Mopses ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Proof of membership
Royal Arch certificate, 1825
Early membership certificates combine vivid hand-coloured decoration with meaningful symbolism, elevating the everyday to the extraordinary. There are thousands of examples in our collections, each one proving masonic membership. In contrast to the standardised designs now in use, earlier certificates were gloriously varied.

Royal Arch certificate, 1825 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of Latin inscription with symbols of freemasonry from Royal Arch certificate, 1825

Royal Arch certificate, 1825 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Detail of signatures with regular dating and freemasonry's Anno Lucis (in the year of light) dating from Royal Arch certificate, 1825

Royal Arch certificate, 1825 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

A celebrity in the ranks
Oscar Wilde and freemasonry
Oscar Wilde, the charismatic playwright, joined freemasonry while studying at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was initiated in Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, Oxford in 1875 and joined other masonic orders, including Mark Masonry.

Oscar Wilde and freemasonry ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Lost on the Titanic
Petitions for admission to the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912
Henry Parkinson Hill worked as a Steward on the Titanic, taking the voyage on doctor’s advice to improve his health. When the ship sank and he was lost at sea, his wife petitioned the freemasons for support. Daughters Eleanor and Florence were admitted to the Royal Masonic School for Girls.

Petitions for admission to the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Formal petition for the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912

Petitions for admission to the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London

Handwritten pages from the petitions for the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912

Petitions for admission to the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1912 ©Museum of Freemasonry, London
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