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Browne, John

In 1798, John Browne published, in London, a work entitled The Master Key through all the Degrees of a Freemason's Lodge, to which is added, Eullogiums and Illustrations upon Freemasonry. In 1802, he published a second edition under the title of Browne's Masonic Master Key through the three degrees, by way of polyglot. Under the sanction of the Craft in general, containing the exact mode of working, initiation, passing and raising to the sublime Degree of a Master. Also, the several duties of the Master, officers, and Brethren while in the Lodge, with every requisite to render the accomplished Mason an explanation of all the hieroglyphics.

The whole interspersed with illustrations on Theology, Astronomy, Architecture, Arts, Sciences, many of which are by the editor. Browne had been, he says, the Past Master of six Lodges, and wrote his work not as an offensive exposition, but as a means of giving Freemasons a knowledge of the ritual. It is considered to be a very complete representation of the monitorial Prestonian lectures, and as such was incorporated by Krause in his Drei altesten Kunsturkuenden.

The work by Browne is printed in a very complicated cipher, the key to which, and without which the book is wholly unintelligible, was, by way of caution, delivered only personally and to none but those who had reached the Third Degree. The explanation of this "mystical key," as Browne calls it, is as follows:

The word Browne supplies the vowels, thus: br o w n e. aeiouy

These six vowels in turn represent six letters, thus: a e i o u y. kcolnu

Initial capitals are of no value, and supernumerary letters are often inserted. The words are kept separate, but the letters of one word are often divided between two or three. Much therefore is left to the shrewdness of the decipherer. The initial sentence of the work may be adduced as a specimen: Ubs Rplrbsrt wbss ostm ronwprn Pongth Mrlwdgr, which is thus deciphered: Please to assist me in opening the Lodge. The work is now exceedingly rare.

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