Check out the earliest item in the Grand Lodge of New York’s Library and Museum!
An Operative Mason’s payroll statement, written in French, on vellum, and previously used in an old binding, dated circa 1400 CE. Click here to see the full record. Donated by famed mathematician and collector, Brother David Eugene Smith, PhD., a member of Cortlandville Lodge No. 470; Cortland; NY. He joined in 1891.
Brother Smith was an avid collector of mathematical memorabilia. In 1931 he, “presented to Columbia University his entire library of some twenty thousand items, representing more than forty years of intelligent collecting. Through travel and purchases in almost every corner of the globe where mathematics and related subjects have been recorded in written or printed from, Dr. Smith has procured his examples. Although at times he has secured the entire mathematical contents of private libraries, such as that of Prof. Ferdinando Jacoli of Venice, most of the items were selected individually, each being chosen for its value in fitting in with the scope of the whole collection. In order fully to understand the various aspects of the library it is necessary to appreciate the multiple character of Dr. Smith’s interests. The collection readily demonstrates the fact that, besides being a historian of mathematics, he is a true bibliophile and an art lover as well.”
The twenty-five or so French manuscripts that he donated to the Grand Lodge Library date from the 1400-s to the early 1800-s. The donation is discussed in the Feb. 1930 Outlook article “Grand Lodge Receives Rare Documents.”
The article states: “Old manuscripts have a place and function of peculiar importance in the life of Freemasonry. For this there are two reasons; first, all the existing written records of the Craft for its whole period down to about two centuries ago, exist in that form; second, since Lodges do not print their transaction many of the most precious records of the past two centuries lie in private letters, diaries, minute-books, certificates, and in other similar written documents. To a very large extent, therefore, the self-revelation of the Craft necessarily is found in manuscripts, for which reason their preservation and careful study becomes for Masons a duty as well as a joy.
Note: Image and research by Catherine M. Walter, Curator
www.columbia.edu, Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Collections Overviews
Frick, Bertha Margaret. The David Eugene Smith Mathematical Library of Columbia University; Osiris, Vol. 1, Jan., 1936, pp. 79-84;
Haywood, H.L. Grand Lodge Receives Rare Documents; The New York Masonic Outlook, Vol. 6, Feb., 1930, pp. 169, 185.
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York; Eaton & Gettinger, Inc., NY, 1930; 1932; 1934