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James Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry , Batsford, 1991, Hardback, £50, ISBN 0-7134-5827-5.

James Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry , Batsford, 1991, Hardback, £50, ISBN... BOOK REVIEWS James Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry, Batsford, Hardback, £50, isbn 0-7134-5827-5. Some years ago, while sitting in the gloom of the Trust for Scotland), waiting half an hour for a negative 1991, Brodie Castle (National to expose, I took some notes on the bizarre ceiling decoration. The date of the decoration has puzzled architectural historians, but I felt I had made a breakthrough when I realised that the room and the plantation visible through the two windows on the south-west wall were related and that this relationship could best be seen from a point near the centre of the room. This seemed to be confirmed by the discovery that the portrait roundel, of a lady, in the north corner, appeared more handsome from this viewpoint than when viewed from directly below. 1 came to no firm conclusions about the room until I received a copy of James Curl's superbly illustrated book for review. To discover that the layout of the room and grounds at Brodie correspond exactly to the 'Layout of a Masonic Lodge', published in 1763, came like a flash of illumination. Had this diagram been published before 1763, I wondered and what did it say about the part traditionally played by Mary Sleigh, wife of Alexander, nineteenth Brodie of that ilk (1697—1754), in laying out the grounds of the estate and in particular the 'wine-goblet' plantation, visible from the centre of the room dining at dining room? This is a book of ideas, and they come thick and fast—almost too fast on occasion, with a tendency to an internal logic, ideas simply based on earlier ideas. But because of those ideas, buildings like Thomas Hamilton's Royal High School (1824—9), with its labyrinthine approach from Regent Terrace, will never be seen in quite the same way again. Equally, his Burns Monument at Alloway (1816—18), perhaps not so surprisingly, becomes a virtuoso piece of masonic as well as Greek revival architecture. Curl's 'Introductory Study', with sections on the history of the masonic movement, Mozart and Freemasonry, Scottish sundials etc., has removed many of the layers of myth and humbug from an exciting subject which deserves a great deal more study. For example, the place of women in the masonic tradition needs to be explored further, and the section on Scottish sundials could be given a more critical examination. Much work is also needed on the effects of Freemasonry on modern art and architecture; indeed, an exploration of the art and gardening of Ian Hamilton Finlay could produce another book. This study is a starting point for much new work, and it is the ideas expressed here which will inspire further reading and research among both architectural historians and general readers, for this is a very readable volume. joe Rock University of Edinburgh http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Architectural Heritage Edinburgh University Press

James Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry , Batsford, 1991, Hardback, £50, ISBN 0-7134-5827-5.

Architectural Heritage , Volume 3 (1): 108 – Jan 1, 1992

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
Subject
Book Reviews
ISSN
1350-7524
eISSN
1755-1641
DOI
10.3366/arch.1992.3.1.108
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Abstract

BOOK REVIEWS James Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry, Batsford, Hardback, £50, isbn 0-7134-5827-5. Some years ago, while sitting in the gloom of the Trust for Scotland), waiting half an hour for a negative 1991, Brodie Castle (National to expose, I took some notes on the bizarre ceiling decoration. The date of the decoration has puzzled architectural historians, but I felt I had made a breakthrough when I realised that the room and the plantation visible through the two windows on the south-west wall were related and that this relationship could best be seen from a point near the centre of the room. This seemed to be confirmed by the discovery that the portrait roundel, of a lady, in the north corner, appeared more handsome from this viewpoint than when viewed from directly below. 1 came to no firm conclusions about the room until I received a copy of James Curl's superbly illustrated book for review. To discover that the layout of the room and grounds at Brodie correspond exactly to the 'Layout of a Masonic Lodge', published in 1763, came like a flash of illumination. Had this diagram been published before 1763, I wondered and what did it say about the part traditionally played by Mary Sleigh, wife of Alexander, nineteenth Brodie of that ilk (1697—1754), in laying out the grounds of the estate and in particular the 'wine-goblet' plantation, visible from the centre of the room dining at dining room? This is a book of ideas, and they come thick and fast—almost too fast on occasion, with a tendency to an internal logic, ideas simply based on earlier ideas. But because of those ideas, buildings like Thomas Hamilton's Royal High School (1824—9), with its labyrinthine approach from Regent Terrace, will never be seen in quite the same way again. Equally, his Burns Monument at Alloway (1816—18), perhaps not so surprisingly, becomes a virtuoso piece of masonic as well as Greek revival architecture. Curl's 'Introductory Study', with sections on the history of the masonic movement, Mozart and Freemasonry, Scottish sundials etc., has removed many of the layers of myth and humbug from an exciting subject which deserves a great deal more study. For example, the place of women in the masonic tradition needs to be explored further, and the section on Scottish sundials could be given a more critical examination. Much work is also needed on the effects of Freemasonry on modern art and architecture; indeed, an exploration of the art and gardening of Ian Hamilton Finlay could produce another book. This study is a starting point for much new work, and it is the ideas expressed here which will inspire further reading and research among both architectural historians and general readers, for this is a very readable volume. joe Rock University of Edinburgh

Journal

Architectural HeritageEdinburgh University Press

Published: Jan 1, 1992

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