A new encyclopaedia of Freemasonry (Ars magna latomorum) and of cognate instituted mysteries : their rites, literature, and history

by Arthur Edward Waite, 1857-1942




Call number

HS375 .W3


Publisher Unknown


An overview of the history, literature, and myths of Freemasonry includes explanations of Masonic ritual and symbolism.

User reviews

LibraryThing member waltzmn
Sometimes the value of a book depends less on the book than on the reader. And this is undoubtedly one of those books.

It seems clear that this is an Encyclopedia of Freemasonry for Freemasons. If you aren't a Mason, you're likely to be stumped.

Example: I was looking for an account of the legend of
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the Master Builder, Hiram Abif(f). The Biblical Huram-abi/Hiram the Father/Hiram the Expert is the Phoenician craftsman who, according to 2 Chronicles 2:13, etc., was the man most responsible for the creation of Solomon's Temple. Masonic legend has it that the Freemasons arose out of these events, and that the Master Builder was murdered rather than reveal a craft secret. This is one of the core legends of Masonry.

But a search of this book for the legend is extremely frustrating. There is an entry on Hiram Abif, but it doesn't really tell the legend, it just tries to tie it to the Biblical and historical accounts. This is done with much learning, much inclusion of irrelevance, and very little clarity. There is no reference for the "Master Builder" -- not even a cross-reference. There is an entry on Solomon, which is mostly post-Solomonic ritual with little justification for the Masonic link to Solomon. And the entry "Temple" is about Masonic temples, not the Jerusalem Temple.

There is much genuine learning in this book, at least in the sense that Waite knew a lot about obscure aspects of Masonry. Whether he knew anything about the major aspects of Masonry is harder to determine.

As for the mechanical aspects of an Encyclopedia, the book is badly lacking. Too much is packed into long entries, with not enough short entries to get you to where you need to go and with not enough cross-references. Terms are often not clearly defined. The text is ponderous and not well organized.

With all that said, this is an immense (about a thousand page) reference with a tremendous amount of detail. If you know enough about Freemasons to use it, and have the high tolerance for absurdity required to study Masonry, this is an immensely useful book. If you are not a Mason, it will likely be very confusing, and if you want proof of all the claims made by Masons, this will likely be extremely disappointing. If you know which kind of reader you are, you will know whether you will like this book.
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