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The Early Artists of Grand Lodge

In 2017, The United Grand Lodge of England appointed an Artist in Residence, the South African artist Jacques Viljoen, 28, who has a background in both classical painting and contemporary art. There have been many artists who have graced the annals of Freemasonry.


As the first official engraver to Grand Lodge, John Pine established a tradition of high-quality engraving and decoration in Masonic documents and publications which has continued to the present day. Many leading artists have produced works for Freemasons and Masonic organisations.


Pine’s successors as engraver to Grand Lodge were three generations of the remarkable Cole family: Benjamin Cole (1696/7-1783); his son, William Cole (1729-1802), engraver to the Bank of England from 1753; and William’s son John (d. 1818?), who established a ‘Masonic Printing Office’ at Fore Street in London. Benjamin Cole was a prolific book illustrator whose work appeared in publications ranging from fables for children to books of military drill. His most notable works were guides to Palladian architecture, including one produced in collaboration with the architect Edward Oakley, a keen Freemason.

Cole was a skillful map-maker and produced a series of maps for William Maitland’s History of London (1756). He engraved maps for John Rocque. In 1728-9, Cole published an elegantly engraved edition of the Old Charges together with various Masonic songs and speeches, including one by Oakley. He later published a separate collection of Masonic songs, and engraved the frontispiece of the 1756 Book of Constitutions. In 1743, Cole took over the production of the engraved lists from Pine, continuing their publication until 1767, when the responsibility passed to William.

The engraved lists were discontinued in 1778, having been superseded by The Freemasons’ Calendar. Both Benjamin and William were also active in producing lodge summonses and certificates. These aspects of the business were further developed by John, a very active Freemason who published his own books on Freemasonry. John’s ‘Masonic Printing Office’ flourished until 1808, when the business was ruined by the introduction of the new technique of lithography.

In an attempt to avoid bankruptcy, John became a dealer in pianos. In 1728 or 1729, Benjamin Cole produced an engraved edition of one of the Old Charges, a family of texts dating back to the middle ages which contain a legendary history of stonemasonry and regulations for stonemasons. Cole also included in this compilation a selection of Masonic songs and two speeches which are the oldest known discussions of the nature of Freemasonry.

One was by the historian of York, Francis Drake, and the other by Cole’s friend, Edward Oakley, a Welsh architect who built the greenhouses of the Chelsea Physic Garden. A new edition of Cole’s 1728-9 compilation was published in 1731 by Benjamin Creake. Creake also published Oakley and Cole’s ‘magazine of architecture, perspective, & sculpture’, together with scientific books, including collections of lectures by Desaguliers, and an introduction to algebra by George Gordon described as Desaguliers’ assistant.


Although Anderson’s 1738 edition of the Book of Constitutions was reprinted in 1746, it had become very out of date and there was dissatisfaction with some aspects of Anderson’s work. In 1756, a revised edition of the Book of Constitutions was published, prepared by John Entick, a writer, and schoolmaster. The frontispiece for the 1756 Book of Constitutions was designed by Louis-Philippe Boitard (active 1733-1767), a French artist who lived in London and made many sharply observed sketches of London life. Boitard’s design for the new Book of Constitutions was engraved by Benjamin Cole.


Pine gave up production of the engraved lists in 1741. The 1742 list was produced by the Welsh map-maker Emanuel Bowen, but in 1743 Benjamin Cole took over the job, using Pine’s plates. This is the first list produced by Cole. Benjamin Cole retained Pine’s frontispiece for his engraved lists, but this copy of the last engraved list produced by Benjamin Cole has an imposing additional plate incorporating a variety of Masonic symbols. The plate was designed by Samuel Wale (1721-86), a painter of historical scenes and the first Professor of Perspective at the newly-established Royal Academy. Wale also provided illustrations for the history of London by John Entick, the compiler of the 1756 Book of Constitutions.

The first engraved list produced by William Cole dates from 1767. Cole was also engraver to the Bank of England, and the oldest five-pound notes now in the Bank’s possession were engraved by him.


In 1751, a group of Irish and Scots freemasons in London who were unable to get access to lodges there and who objected to changes introduced by the English Grand Lodge decided to form their own Grand Lodge, ‘the Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions’, or Ancients for short. The Ancients, inspired by the charismatic Laurence Dermott, an Irish painter who afterward became a prosperous wine merchant, proved a formidable rival to the existing Grand Lodge (the Premier Grand Lodge), enjoying close relations with the Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges and establishing over 160 lodges.

Eventually, in 1813 the two Grand Lodges merged to form the United Grand Lodge of England. The Ancients followed the example set by the Premier Grand Lodge in the prominent use of engraving in books and documents issued by them. Like the Premier Grand Lodge, the Ancients produced engraved lists of the lodges established by them. Only one example of an Ancients engraved list survives, dating from 1753. It was printed by Bro. Evans in London. The identity of Bro. Evans cannot be firmly established.


In 1756, Laurence Dermott compiled a Book of Constitutions for the Ancients which he gave the Hebrew title Ahiman Rezon, which he translated, inaccurately, as ‘help to a brother’. Dermott used successive editions to articulate his ideas as to the nature of Freemasonry and increasingly to condemn the rival Grand Lodge. Like the various editions of Anderson’s Constitutions, Ahiman Rezon had an imposing engraved frontispiece. The frontispiece of the second edition of 1764 shows, above, the arms assumed by the Ancients, containing the symbols associated with the four evangelists, and, below, the arms of London company of masons.

The frontispiece of the 1787 edition of Ahiman Rezon was drawn and engraved by Michael ‘Angelo’ Rooker (1746-1801). Rooker was a pupil of Paul Sandby, the brother of Thomas, the architect of the first Freemasons’ Hall on this site. It was Paul who gave Rooker the nickname ‘Angelo’. Rooker briefly had an engravers’ shop in Great Queen Street, but earned his living as the chief scene painter at the Haymarket Theatre. In his spare time, he devoted himself to watercolour pictures of old buildings. It was said that he drew these buildings as if he loved every brick and stone. Rooker’s subtle watercolour technique is said to have influenced the work of Turner.


Alexander Dalziel (1781-1832) was a nurseryman in Newcastle and amateur artist. Seven of his eight sons became artists. George (1815-1902) and Edward (1817-1905) set up business as engravers in London, and were eventually joined by Thomas (1823-1906), the most gifted of them. The Dalziel brothers were proficient in the technique of wood engraving, which was popular with Victorian book producers. They produced many of the illustrations for early numbers of Punch and the Illustrated London News. Among their most celebrated works were illustrations for childrens’ books, most notably the engraving of Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass.

Alexander was a very enthusiastic freemason and was a member of lodges in Wooler, Gateshead and Newcastle. Of his sons, Alexander (1814-36), Robert (1810-42), Thomas and William (1805-73) joined lodges in Newcastle and Gateshead. William and Robert were, with their father, founders of the Northern Counties Lodge No. 406 in Newcastle. William, the brother who stayed at home, was the most committed freemason, becoming Provincial Grand Organist of Northumberland in 1829. A number of masonic documents decorated by William survive


Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85)

Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85) was born in Florence, where he trained as an artist. Moving to Rome, he became friendly with the architect Sir William Chambers, who encouraged him to settle in England in 1755. Chambers used Cipriani to decorate buildings designed by him, most notably at Somerset House, where Cipriani designed many of the statues ornamenting the building and provided paintings for rooms occupied by the Royal Society and Royal Academy.

Cipriani taught at a drawing academy established by the Duke of Richmond. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768, and designed the membership diploma of the Academy, which was engraved by his friend Bartolozzi. Bartolozzi had been a fellow student of Cipriani in Florence, and followed him to England in 1784. The two friends worked closely together. Bartolozzi designed the memorial to Cipriani placed on his grave in Chelsea.

Cipriani was made a Master Mason at the Thatched House Tavern in St James’s Street in January 1777. He was a founder member of the Lodge of the Nine Muses, which was formally constituted in 1799. Robert Biggin, the first treasurer of the lodge and a Grand Steward in 1778, presented a set of jewels to be worn to the officers. These jewels, shown here and still in use today, were designed by Cipriani. They are hand-painted on copper and mounted in silver gilt oval frames with a loop for attachment to the officer’s collar.

In January 1777, Raphael Franco, the lodge’s first senior warden, also presented three ornate candlesticks. Cipriani is believed to have also designed the enamel panels incorporated in the base of these candlesticks.

Lemuel Francis Abbott, Portrait of Francesco Bartolozzi. Tate, London.


Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815) was the son of a Florentine silver engraver and attended the drawing school in Florence, where he and Cipriani first met. After an apprenticeship to an engraver in Venice, Bartolozzi moved to Rome, where he and Cipriani became constant companions. In 1764, King George III’s librarian offered Bartolozzi an appointment as ‘engraver to the King’ and he moved to England. Bartolozzi shared lodgings in London with Cipriani.

He was a founder member of the Royal Academy. During his time in England, he produced thousands of engravings, many after designs by Cipriani. In 1802, he left England to take charge of the National Academy in Lisbon. Like his friend Cipriani, Bartolozzi became a freemason and a member of the Lodge of the Nine Muses. He produced a number of engravings for Masonic purposes.


A further revision of the Book of Constitutions of the Premier Grand Lodge was produced in 1784 by the antiquary John Noorthouck (d. 1816). The frontispiece was designed by Cipriani and Paul Sandby, the brother of the architect of the first Freemasons’ Hall on this site, which had opened in 1775. It was engraved by Bartolozzi and James Fittler.


John Harris (1791-1873) came from an artistic family, and as a student at the Royal Academy assisted his father in illuminating a gold-printed version of Magna Carta. He worked for the bookbinder James Whitaker and became interested in the production of pages imitating early printing which could be used to replace missing pages in antiquarian books. He supplied facsimile pages to many of the leading book collectors of the time.

In 1820, he became an employee of the British Museum, where he was used to supply missing pages from early books. The librarians at the Museum were unable to distinguish between original pages printed by Caxton and imitations made by Harris. Harris’s facsimiles were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Harris was a keen Freemason from at least 1818 and provided many illustrations for masonic periodicals such as the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review. He produced a series of designs for tracing boards, which are used in Masonic ritual to help explain the symbolism and moral system of Freemasonry. Harris’s designs were widely adopted, and form the basis of many still in use today. By 1856, Harris had become totally blind, and in 1860 Harris and his wife moved to the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, where they stayed until his death in 1873. The high quality of the engraved facsimiles produced by members of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge is evident from this facsimile of the Cooke manuscript produced by George Speth (1847-1901), the founder and first secretary of the lodge. Even the wooden boards of the original manuscript are faithfully reproduced.

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