Monday, August 30, 2010

‘The Book of the Words & Esoterika’


If you need a gift idea for the Scottish Rite Freemason who has everything, might I suggest a gorgeous edition of indispensable AASR literature, bound by hand in leather, only recently published by Restoration Books? Choose either Esoterika or Sephir H’debarim (The Book of the Words), priced at $375 per volume. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from buying both, for a total of $750. Fully insured shipping and handling are included in the price.

Esoterika and The Book of the Words both were authored by Albert Pike. The former is his interpretation of the ritual and symbols of the three Craft degrees (with some humorous commentary on traditional Anglo interpretation of the degrees, and on the state of Masonic education in the 1880s). Restoration Book’s new printing is a recreation of the original production of the single volume of Esoterika that Pike had published and archived at the Mother Supreme Council. This title was resuscitated by Ill. Arturo de Hoyos, who edited and had it published for members of the Scottish Rite Research Society about five years ago. This title, in a more “normal” hardcover printing, is available at the A&ASR’s bookstore for a modest sum.

The Book of the Words is a dizzying historical and etymological exploration of esoteric words of Scottish Rite Masonry. No surprise that Pike, as he did in Morals and Dogma, pioneers what we today term comparative religious study, and of course there is plenty of ancient religion examined along the way. (Words of caution about Pike’s work in this field: His efforts were limited, naturally, to what was known during his lifetime. Archeology and Egyptology, to name two sciences we take for granted today, were – at best – in embryonic stages. In addition, Hebrew is a language of heavy nuance. What can you expect from the absence of vowels? Always be skeptical of those, Jewish or not, who have not studied the language for a lifetime when they translate and interpret Hebrew, because can get it wrong, especially those with a “believing is seeing” disposition. (When the Magpie Mason took the degree of Anointed High Priest four years ago, he was stunned and appalled that the ritualists could not frame to pronounce the Word of the degree. They’re all fine Masons, but Hebrew is not a Western language that, like Latin, is fairly easily rendered into modern English. Hebrew can be obstructive and crafty, especially in esoteric religious contexts that require structured lifetime study of Torah and Talmud as prerequisites. I’m sure Pike did his best, but some things may have been beyond his abilities or simply out of his hands, so I personally choose to take him with a grain of salt.)

The Book of the Words first was published in 1878 in a run of 100 copies. In 1999, the SRRS reprinted it with additional material and an introduction by Ill. De Hoyos.

Restoration Books says:

Each copy is bound in full navy blue Morocco goatskin with traditional hand-marbled endpapers and a silk ribbon marker. The binding design was painstakingly reproduced from a photograph of the original copy of Esoterika held by the House of the Temple archives, the only variation from the original being the signature of Albert Pike, tooled in gold, on the front cover. All gold tooling and top edge gilding is executed by hand. The Book of the Words will be bound in identical blue Morocco leather in matching style, with the only difference in design being the titling to the spine.

Bro. Arturo De Hoyos has generously offered to sign each copy and include the official foil stamps of the Supreme Council and/or the Scottish Rite Research Society along with the Grand Historian/Archivist Stamps. Each copy of Esoterika and The Book of the Words will also have a beautiful facsimile replica of an official 19th century Supreme Council bookplate tipped into the front of the book, along with a personalized “Ex-Libris” plate with the owner’s name placed below the Supreme Council bookplate.

These hand-bound leather editions of Pike’s Esoterika and The Book of the Words are strictly limited to one hundred signed and hand-numbered sets. These stunning books are sure to become highly collectible heirlooms worthy of being handed down for generations to come. For more information, please visit our project blog.

Restoration Books Bindery & Fine Press unveiled these masterpieces this weekend at the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s first conference, held in Colorado.

All photographs courtesy of Restoration Books Bindery & Fine Press.

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