The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Martin Gandoff
Martin Gandoff is a well-known author and he has contributed to The Square on a number of occasions. His latest book is a gem. He has provided a concise and clearly written description of the Craft since 1400. The book divides Masonic history into discrete time periods – 1400-1620, 1620-1716, 1717-1730, 1731-1750, 1751-1801, 1801-1817, 1818 onwards. Thus, the reader can go to any period and see what was happening – not only with events including exposures and attacks on the Craft, but also what changes were happening to the ritual and what effects these had. Martin has put in a lot of work here and he has provided references and a good index. There are nice illustrations throughout and it is written in a very friendly way. He starts with a short overview of English history so that the reader gets a feeling of what was happening in society. Then he has a chapter on ritual and ceremonial – a most interesting chapter which, he admits, is perhaps the most theoretical in the book. However, it is most entertaining and it shows how important ritual is to human beings and to society in general. His section on origin theories is refreshingly open – ‘some make sense, others are nonsense but because they relate to “time immemorial”, we still don’t throw them in the bin!’ Later he introduces us to variations in modern ritual – Nigerian, Humber, etc. He also looks at modern rituals such as squaring/not squaring the lodge, numbers of knocks, fire at the festive board, tracing boards, Tyler’s toasts and so on. In the final chapter on recap and further study he provides an excellent resume of books, websites and lodge papers which the reader can access. He finishes with the age old conundrum – what are the landmarks. An article in the Square by Gandoff himself revealed the differing opinions about these. This really is a very useful book for all Masons and for Masonic researchers as well. It is well produced, nicely printed and bound and slightly smaller than most – so easy to slip into the jacket pocket.