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Pocket Companions

A Pocket Companion For Freemasons, by W. Smith; published at London in 1735 by E. Rider in Blackmore Street. A collection of songs which forms one part of this book is dated 1734. The price is not given but from other sources it is known that, unlike Anderson's Book of Constitutions, it was inexpensive, probably one shilling and six pence. The book was small (12 mo) and the author (about whom little is known) states that his design has been to produce "a small Volume easily portable, which will render what was before difficult to come at, and troublesome to carry about, of more extensive use." In it is a brief "History of Masonry" charges; General Regulations; Manner of Constituting a New Lodge; A Short Charge; a collection of 19 songs and a prologue; concluding with a List of Lodges in which the last entry is the Lodge at Duke of Marlborough's Head in Whitechapel, constituted November 5, 1734.

A Dublin edition was issued the same year. It differed little from the London edition except that it carried an approbation by the Grand Master (Lord Kingsland) which the London Edition had not done, doubtless because it was considered to encroach upon the rights of the Anderson Book of Constitutions of 1723; and that it gave "lawful age" as twenty-one instead of twenty-five as in England. In this edition is the oft-discussed entry of an American Lodge dated at 1735: "The Hoop in Wator Street, in Philadelphia, 1st Monday." (A copy of the Dublin Edition is in the vaults of the Iowa Grand Lodge Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.)

In 1736 another issue of the London edition was published by John Torbuck. In 1738 Smith himself brought out a new and somewhat enlarged edition which included the "Defense of Masonry," believed to have been written by Martin Clare.

A North of England Edition, entitled The Book M, was published at Newcastle, in 1736. A German edition was brought out in Frankfort, 1738. Other German editions followed, and other books of a similar kind were published soon after in Belgium and France.

An edition was published in Edinburgh in 1752, and again in 1754.

A Dublin Edition; 1764. Other London editions in 1754; 1759; 1761; 1764. At this time "pocket companion" became a generic term, and for decades one work after another of a similar kind

was produced until the end of the century; they were entitled Vademecum, Principles, Institutes, Repository, Practice, Musical Mason, etc.

Regardless of titles these books went by the general name of pocket companions--"pocket" because they were small, "companions" because they were reference (and song) books; and they satisfied a want felt by Masons everywhere because the Anderson Book of Constitutions was too large and too costly. (To judge by Lodge Minutes the larger number of the Anderson books must have been purchased by Lodges out of their general funds.) Until Hutchinson published his Spirit of Masonry and Preston his Illustrations they were, except for official or semi-official manuals, the only generally available Masonic reading matter, and the fact explains why it was that on both sides of the Atlantic Masons had but a meager understanding of Freemasonry and often were puzzled by its practices; yet the Pocket Books (like Old Catechisms and Engraved Lists), and for all their dryness, are invaluable because they contain essential data not found elsewhere.

NOTE. The attitude of the Grand Lodge toward the two Books of Constitutions to which the name of James Anderson was attached remained ambiguous for decades: The Grand Lodge itself ordered the book to be prepared, George Payne prepared almost half of it, yet the Grand Lodge not only put Anderson's name on the Title Page but left it to him to have the book published- and apparently the Grand Lodge never gave an all-out official endorsement to either the 1723 or the 1738 editions. If it was an official publication by the Grand Lodge why did it permit a private writer to publish it? Why did it leave it to the option of Lodges to purchase it or not? Why did it not give copies to the Lodges without charge as Grand Lodges now give Proceedings? If it was official why did the Grand Lodge permit divergent forms of ceremony to be used? And why did it suffer other, and private, publications to be used in lieu of it? If it was not Official, why did Grand Lodge sponsor it? The data as a whole gives the impression that this ambiguity was a settled policy- and in that formative period of the Grand Lodge system doubtless was a wise one.

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