Popular History of Freemasonry. A Manuscript in Five VolumesPRATT, Alfred
n.p. n.p.. c1880.
An unpublished manuscript in five volumes on the history of Freemasonry written by an English Freemason in the late nineteenth century. Five volumes. 221x148mm. Written in a neat italic hand on the verso only with some notes, additions and amendments on the page opposite (the recto of the previous leaf). Each leaf is numbered. Vol. I, ll. , [5bl], 1-118, 117-209; Vol. II, , [4bl], 221; Vol. III, , [4bl], 184. The last four leaves (8pp recto and verso) have two newspaper reports pasted down. These are reports of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge of English Freemasons dated 5th December 1877 and 6th March 1878. Vol. IV, , [5bl], 266; Vol. V, , [4bl], 160.
Black half calf, buckram covered boards. Spine with five raised bands, four compartments with diced calf. Lettered in gilt, author's name, "Alfred Pratt" lettered in gilt at foot of spine. Some slight scuffing to upper cover of volume five. Internally fine with very slight foxing in places. Front pastedowns have the small binder's ticket "Bound by Corner, Wellington".
This is a fascinating and unique book, demonstrating an extraordinary devotion to Freemasonry and its history. The author’s aim, stated in the introductory prospectus, is to provide the (non-Masonic) general public with a book in which they can “lay hold of the whole of a doctrine, the influence that it has exercised upon civilisation, the progress that it has realised and the destiny that it is promised in the future”. Alfred Pratt’s study begins with the origins of Freemasonry in India and Egypt, before taking us through Moses and Solomon, classical Greece and Rome and into the modern world. Its range and ambition are enormous. Although the book is plainly written with an audience in mind, there is no trace of its having been published and it is unclear whether the book was ever intended for publication.
We have been able to piece together some of Alfred Pratt's biography with help from some of his family and from what we have found Masonic journals and newspapers. It is a good story and shows Pratt to be an enthusiastic amateur author.
He was born in 1815. His family home was in Surrey and his father was a doorman at the House of Commons. Alfred began his working life in the Merchant Navy and he kept a diary in 1836 recounting a voyage from Calcutta to London. In 1837, he was working for Brunel surveying bridges between Maidenhead and London. In 1854, he joined the War Office where he was described as "practical engineer" and went to Crimea where he supervised the transport and storage of support materials for British Army at Balaclava although it seems that much of his advice was ignored by the authorities. After the war he wrote a book (never published) entitled "Russia in the Crimea".