By John Wilder – Historian
Among the many generous donations of memorabilia we receive at the Aleppo Archives often are included copies of the two-volume history book printed for Aleppo Temple in 1915. These are also occasionally found listed on the second hand market for a few hundred dollars (though they rarely sell for anywhere near those prices), and recently we even had a Noble from New York call us offering to front the cost of a set he found in a rare book store listed for $1600! By the end of our discussion, your Historian ended up promising to send a set to this Noble for inclusion in the library at Mecca Temple free of charge.
We have accumulated a number of copies of this book set, but we do not discourage donations to us of those copies which are no longer wanted. Indeed, we are still pleased to receive them. While we keep a few examples of the variations we will discuss below in the archives, we are happy to offer sets to Lodges who have libraries and even individual Nobles as these books beyond being handsome in appearance and being interesting to the casual browser, they are in fact an extremely valuable resource!
First, some basics about the books themselves. They were published in 1915 by The Hall Publishing Company which was located in Boston and printed by The Gillespie Bros. Inc. which was located in Stamford, CT. These books measure about 11 by 14 inches, and the two volume set weighs in at just over 20 pounds!
There were 1500 copies of the two volume set (3000 individual books) printed of the first and only edition. The first 750 copies were bound in leather, and the second 750 copies bound in standard cloth hardcover. All feature gold embossed covers and spines as well as gold leaf on the top of the pages. Each book has a serial number on the reverse of the title page with sets having matching numbers. In the Archives, the lowest set we have is number 11.
Leather bound copies are often found in poor condition; though with some book tape and leather conditioner, it does not take too much effort to return these sets to useable condition.
Volume 1 of each set contains the early history of the Shrine and the Imperial Council as well as the first 41 Imperial Sessions. Also included are a number of Arabic traditions and histories. Volume 2 contains a history of Aleppo Temple including brief notes on all meetings and events. Also included is a history of the early units including the Arab Patrol and Band.
Dispersed throughout is a number of reproduced images of the early history of Imperial and Aleppo including rare early images of the units as well as a number of Arabic scenes. At least three copies in poor condition have been cannibalized at one point or another to obtain frameable copies of these images.
Beyond all that information, however, comes the really important information. Split between the two volumes are formal portraits and biographies for a vast majority of Aleppo Nobles from our founding up until the book was published. While we have found a number of names missing from the book and even some names in the index (of which just the list of names takes up almost 30 three-columned pages!) don’t have corresponding entries, we have found this to be an invaluable resource time after time for researching Nobles.
The biographies of each Noble often include their personal information including birthdate, education, family names, and profession as well as their membership in Masonic bodies and other organizations. This is why we consider these a great addition to any Lodge’s library.
It should be noted that a large number of both the group photos as well as the individual photos were altered. Sometimes this consists of just adding color though sometimes has included creating an entire costume around a Noble’s head. We have shown this previously by comparing portraits with matching heads as well as when we have found an original of one of the group photos as seen here with the 1904 Arab Patrol and three identical images of Ill. Albion Welch. As such, while these images are beautiful, we cannot use them as accurate historical references.
Of interest, we have found a number of other New England Temples which have almost identical books. Due to the sizes of these Temples at the time, as far as we have seen, all of these are only one volume, though otherwise contain similar contents. All have an almost identical cover image to Aleppo’s and a similar availability of leather bound and cloth hardcover.
Within the Archives we are fortunate to have a copy of the book from Pyramid Temple. Other Temples we have seem identical books for are Palestine (Rhode Island) and Mount Sinai.
We would be very interested in obtaining copies of the books from Palestine and Mount Sinai as well as learning if any of the other Temples had similar books. And as mentioned above, we are happy to receive unwanted copies of the Aleppo book and are happy to provide sets to interested Lodges and Nobles. We also have a number of odd volumes so if you have a mismatched serial number or only a single volume, we may be able to find the matching volume for you!