A Fine Mid Nineteenth-Century Masonic Binding
Containing Five Exquisitely Hand-Colored Lithographed Plates
Depicting Craft and Royal Arch Tracing Boards
[MASONIC BINDING]. HARRIS, John. [Craft and Royal Arch Tracing Boards. London: ca. 1845].
Blank book. Octavo (9 1/16 x 5 1/2 inches; 230 x 141 mm.).  leaves of ruled paper. Five hand-colored lithographed plates depicting tracing boards. The plates are signed: "Fr. Jo. Harris inv. et fecit" (first and third plates); "Fr. Jo. Harris inv. et fecit. No. 8. Strand LONDON" (second plate); "By Ino. Harris. 10 Sidmouth St Regent Square London" (fourth plate); "Des. & Drawn on Stone by Com. J Harris P.Z. Published the 8 April 1844. Ent. Sta. Hall" (fifth plate).
Contemporary dark purple hard-grain morocco. Covers decoratively tooled in gilt with single gilt fillet border and gilt Masonic emblems, smooth spine divided into seven compartments with gilt lettering in one compartment and gilt Masonic emblems in the remaining six compartments, board edges and turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt, all edges gilt, light blue moiré silk endleaves. With the original brass lock. A spectacular example of a mid nineteenth-century Masonic binding.
"John Harris (1791-1873) was a talented artist of the early 19th century who was famous for his works in watercolours and miniature paintings. He specialised in watercolour illustrations for books (architecture, geography, etc), and exhibited at the Royal Academy as early as 1810. The British Museum possesses one of his pieces. John started his Masonic career in 1818, when he was initiated in London. The Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the ĎUnited Free And Accepted Masons Of England' in 1814, valued his works and it is assumed that the Duke commissioned John to harmonise the Tracing Boards by creating one official model for each degree. After dedicating all his strengths to his art, he unfortunately lost his vision but, despite this, continued to look after his invalid wife. From 1856 until his death, he was a dependent of the ĎRoyal Masonic Benelovent [sic] Institution'" (Tracing Boards at http://www.zetlandhall.com/tboard.php#jh).
Inscribed in ink ca. 1950 on the verso of the front free endpaper: "The Property of/Worshipful Bro. Jack Joseph Past Master of the Barnato Lodge 2265 joining Member of Old Owens Lodge 4440. Companion of Barnato Chapter 2265. First D.C. Old Owen's Chapter 4440. The illustrations in this volume (5 in/all) depict the 5 tracing boards. The 3 first representing the 3 degrees of Craft masonry & the last 2 representing Royal Arch Chapter. They were drawn about 1844 as will be gathered by the date on the last board. Their workmanship is exquisite, it needs no praise or elaboration. The artist, one J. Harris, who was a P.M, P.[?] was also a printer & it is evident that he made a super effort in the execution of these illustrations. Their beauty is only equaled by their interest and extreme rarity. It is doubtful whether outside Museums & Libraries such choice specimens could be obtained or seen, & apart from their rarity of Masonic Interest, they are exceedingly scarce as items of early litho-graphic interest. Almost, one could describe them as unique. Their possession is a matter of intense gratification. Jack Joseph."
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