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In 1741, the Grand Lodge of England adopted a regulation which Entiek (Constitutions, 1756, page 236) is careful to tell us, "was unanimously agreed to," forbidding any Brother "to print, or cause to be printed, the proceedings of any Lodge or any part thereof, or the names of the persons present at such Lodge, but by the direction of the Grand Master or his deputy, under pain of being disowned for a Brother, and not to be admitted into any Quarterly Communication or Grand Lodge, or any Lodge whatsoever, and of being rendered incapable of bearing any office in the Craft." The law has never been repealed, but the Grand Lodge of England issues reports of its meetings, as also do most of the Grand Lodges of the world. Bulletins are published at stated intervals by the Grand Orients of France, Italy, and Portugal, and by nearly all those of South America. In the Unite l States, every Grand Lodge publishes annually the journal of its proceedings, and many subordinate Lodges print the account of any special meeting held on an important or interesting occasion.
After years of argument and discussion historians of the great art of printing tend to agree that the honor of inventing the printing press goes to the Dutchman Laurens Coster, who was born about 1370 A.D. and died in 1440 A.D. Johann Gutenberg (1397-1468) will continue to be the most famous of the earliest printers because of his edition of the Bible, a single copy of which has sold for almost one million dollars.
But it was Aldus Manutius (1495 1597) and his family in Venice who established the first great publishing house, and who made printing a world force for kings and popes to reckon with. Without printing there would have been no Renaissance, and without a Renaissance there would have been neither Humanism now the Reformation. Immediately this new power appeared, the Vatican moved in to chain it up, lest the common people in Europe should learn a number of inconvenient facts. How the printers themselves circumvented the Vatican, and a number of kings beside, is explained in Vol. II of Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, by George Haven Putnam, a companion piece to the same author's work on the Roman censorship of books (that censorship continues to be enforced wherever the Vatican has the power to enforce it, even in America); G. P. Putnam's Sons; New York; 1897.
To a Mason who remembers what the gild system meant to Masonry, the most interesting chapter in Putnam's history is the one on the printer gilds; it shows how the printers and publishers themselves, and oftentimes against the State as well as against the Church, defended and maintained and expanded their epoch-making art, until it was at last beyond and above control by any Church or State in the world.
(NOTE. It was not printing that Coster invented but the use of movable type; printing of books from engraved wood blocks, each block being as large as a page, had been done centuries before. In 1908 Sir Aurel Stein discovered in Buddhist eaves in the Gobi Desert near Funhwang a number of very old printed books. "One large black printed roll which bore a date corresponding to A.D. 868 was the oldest specimen of a printed book so far known...." Altogether Sir Aurel discovered in one series of eaves preserved by the drynessl over 9,000 printed books and ms. rolls. See page 47 in The Gobi Desert, by Mildred Cable with Francesca French; the Macmillan Company; New York; 1944).
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