Masonic books published in Prague in the 18th century
|Keywords||Masonic books published in Prague in the 18th century – Ferdinand Schonfeld- Freimaurer Journal – Ignaz von Born – Masonic orphanage in Prague – System der Freymaurer-Loge Wahrheit und Einigkeit zu drei gekrönten Säulen in P***[rag]|
|Type of Article||Peer-reviewed|
The article analyses the Masonic books published in Prague in the 18th century, including its authors and publishers. Freemasonry had its golden age in Austria in the last quarter of the 18th century. This included Bohemia and Moravia (Czech Lands), at that time part of the Habsburg State. Masonic lodges were flourishing in the cities like Prague and Brno, reaching a membership of more than 200 brethren. Due to the French Revolution, all Masonic activities were suspended by Imperial decree in 1794. In spite of a relatively short period of 30 years, more than forty Masonic publications saw the light in the Czech Lands. It is not a small number considering the brief period and highly specialized subject. We have also to realize, that the language spoken at that time was German, and German books, including Masonic, were freely imported to Prague from neighboring countries. The most active Masonic publisher was Ferdinand Schonfeld, with over 70 % of the production came from his house. At the same time he was the biggest commercial publisher of the country, flooding the market with books, newspapers, magazines, occasional prints and re-issues of foreign titles, sometimes easily disregarding copyrights. Anything any lodge would need, he was ready to print. However, the quality of his publications was of uneven and often low and he was criticized for this by the famous Viennese Masonic magazine, Freimaurer Journaal, published by Ignác von Born. The Ex-Jesuit Ignác Cornova was the most prolific author in Prague. On the other hand we see in 1794 the publication of the System der Freymaurer-Loge Wahrheit und Einigkeit zu drei gekrönten Säulen in P***[rag].“ which is the most interesting and important document of 18th century Masonic Prague. In addition to the text of the rituals for the three degrees, it narates the lodge history and describes the duties of Brethren to care for the Masonic orphanage in Prague. Very interesting is the lodge Constitution, where there are defined rules like… „The lodge is a democratic republic“ … „ where the youngest members has the same voting rights as the oldest“. The Masonic publications in Prague and Brno in the 18th century thus contributed to the enlightment and modernization of society in the Czech Lands.