Poznan University Library has a separate collection of Freemason books and pamphlets. This collection originated from Masonic prints, published by German and European Freemasonic lodges, that had been formerly confiscated by the Nazis throughout Europe and later recovered, in autumn 1945, at Slawa Slaska as a result of the action of reassembling and protecting of the abandoned and dispersed book stock in the western part of Poland. The number of volumes now included in the collection is estimated to amount to about 2/5 of all pre-1933 book collections of German lodges. The collection found at Slawa was assembled and transferred to the University Library and, from 1959, has been developed and processed in the Freemasonic Archive Room as a separated collection with its own catalogue and inventory books. This part of the collection that has already been processed amounts to over 65,000 volumes. From the 1970s until 2017, the Masonic collection was housed in eighteenth-century Ciazen palace. From there, the collection has been transferred to Poznan and is now kept at the Collegium Martineum – ul. Św. Marcin 78.
To learn more about the history, origins and the content of the prints in our collection we invite you to read a detailed article by mgr Andrzej Karpowicz. The article is available at the following the link.
The oldest part of the collection is composed of seventeenth Rosicrucian prints. The number of volumes of the eighteenth century old prints in the collection amounts to several thousand volumes. The bulk of the collection, however, comes from the nineteenth and the twentieth century (until 1933/35). This part also includes a small collection of modern literature, but the largest in Poland and amounting to one and a half thousands volumes, devoted to Masonry. German language books are in preponderance. A sizeable number of books are in French and English. Prints in other languages are in insignificant number.
This part of the collection where all processing steps have been completed includes all German Freemason encyclopaedias, many French and English encyclopaedias, a large amount of books on general interest devoted to all aspects and issues in Freemasonry, textbooks, apologetic literature, polemics and introductory literature. The library also has all essential bibliographies of Freemason literature, a collection of printed catalogues of a large number of Freemason libraries and booksellers’ catalogues that include Masonic prints. Journals and periodicals constitute 70% of the Masonic collection. Journals include more than 120 titles of German journals, 32 titles of German almanacs and calendars, journals and almanacs in other languages, a set of 115 titles of annual reports of German grand lodges and similar annual reports in other languages, a large collection, though incomplete, of lists of members of Masonic lodges in Germany and, on a much smaller scale, similar lists from other countries.
A vast collection of speeches and addresses, in particular from the 18th and 19th c. lodges, and author’s editions of the most important authors and a set of biographies form another part of the collection. Another interesting collection is a collection of philosophical parables and Masonic novels, plays and a large collection of Freemason song-books.
Another part of the holdings is the collection of prints devoted to philosophy, ethics, and social thought of Freemasonry and its approach to other Christian and non-Christian denominations as well as writings pertaining to secret, mystical or esoteric writings. The history of Freemasonry also encompasses the history of mysteries and various secret or esoteric brethren as well as brethren of operative masons from the ancient to modern times, the history of secret associations and the fraternal orders, appendant groups, and the military religious orders such as the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, the history of Freemasonry throughout the centuries in different countries, the history of grand lodges and those forming the association of national lodges.
The collection includes several hundreds Freemason Constitutions and Statutes, including the first edition of the Anderson constitutions and the statutes of Masonic charity organisations as well as various scientific and cultural associations.
As charity has always been a core principle of Freemasonry, a small section of the prints comprises publications devoted to and documenting activities outside of the lodge, i.e. community fundraising, volunteering and cultural activities and promotion of Masonic knowledge. A large number of publications within this particular group deal with Masonic rituals and symbols. These publications include catechisms, books of instruction, descriptions of the systems of Masonic rituals, particular degrees and ceremonies as well as works devoted to general knowledge of Masonic symbols with explanations of their meanings.
Yet another important part of the holdings is the collection of prints of associations similar in character and the ritual to Freemasonry, i.e. those of the Rosicrucians, Illuminates, secret associations relating to the Templars, Jewish organisation of B’nai B’rith, German druids, Schlaraffi, Rotarians and others. Eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century anti-Masonic literature of various anti-Masonic movements supplements this part of the collection.
The alphabetical catalogue is divided into two parts. The one includes old books (17th and 18th) published until 1800, inclusive. The other includes books published after1800, i.e. from 1801 onwards. Periodicals have not been separated from the alphabetical catalogue and have been included in the general catalogues that do not go beyond mechanically ordered keyword matching. The only exception is the lists of fellow members of different lodges, which are placed under the collective names: Matrikel, Mitglieder- Verzeichnis, Naamlijst, Tableau (depending on the language used) and then classified according to a place name, name of the lodge or, alternatively, classified under the heading ”Reports of the institutions and collective bodies”, then according to the name of the country, town and the name of a particular lodge.
The subject card-catalogue, which records all items in the collection and currently includes 20,000 cards, is a systematic catalogue made up of entries grouped in classified order. Some of the sections of the catalogue, as need arises, are elaborated deeper, some others include listings grouped according to the subject headings. In the applied notation, the first numeral indicates the main section of the catalogue, whereas the second or the following, divisions within a section.
The Masonic collection of Poznań University Library is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. It is highly appraised by specialists and scholars and believed to be one of the three essential collections of the literature used in the studies on the history of Freemasonry in Europe.
Written by: mgr Andrzej Karpowicz