Illuminated Addresses

Illumination: - an ancient Irish art revived.

 Our story starts some 5000 years ago when the Sumerians invented writing. Clay or stone tablets were used for writing until the Egyptians developed papyrus, treating a flax-like plant to produce flat sheets for writing upon. As Christianity spread across Europe, demands grew to distribute the written word of God. In the 3rd century A.D., new styles of imagery were being used for symbolism and narrative. Within a hundred years the book developed as we know it today – folded sheets between hard covers. Ireland was crucial in preserving Christian and classical learning, and then passing it through Europe. A distinctive style developed here, combining intricate Celtic interlace with Eastern Coptic influences. It is in early Irish manuscripts that opening letters first developed into richly adorned initials – sometimes the size of a full page – as in some of the examples found in The Book of Kells and The Book of Durrow.

 There were no printing presses in those days, no production lines to run off multiple copies. Monks copied each book by hand, onto vellum – a type of soft leather, carrying out their illumination by hand, using natural light or candles, supplemented by rush dips. The pigments, to create the various colours came from natural sources. Some highly prized, such as lapis lazuli and gold leaf, being very expensively and only used on the best quality work. Subjects included the Gospels, philosophy, science, medicine and mythology. By the mid 13th century, book manuscripts, until then only produced in the scriptoria of monasteries, were increasingly being produced commercially in specialist commercial workshops. These workshops, created books for the private use of highly placed lay-people, as well as meeting the on-going demand from the Church.

 Shortly thereafter, in the early 15th century, people like William Caxton developed the printing press. It was around this period that illumination became less important as an art form, as the emphasis changed to the production of monotone wall and panel painting in new naturalistic styles.

However, as time passed, book owners continued to seek illustrations, firstly in the 17th century with the works of William Blake, right up to the 19th century when William Morris and others were reacting to the growing industrialisation of the day by reviving medieval skills in the decorative arts.

 Illuminated addresses come in two main forms as a framed certificate or in book form on a number of pages. We in the Irish Constitution have preserved a number of these elegant pieces of Irish Masonic memorabilia and attach a few examples for your information.

 Example No 1 is a Framed Address and Presentation presented to Bro James Creighton PM Lodge 106 from the members of Farmers Lodge of Friendship No 978.

 Dear Sir and Brother – It is with feelings of real pleasure that the members of the above Lodge take this opportunity of tendering you their sincere thanks for the able manner in which you have aided and directed them in their efforts to promote Antient Freemasonry in this Lodge. . . . 

                                    Click to enlarge

Example No 2 is a Framed Address and Presentation to The Most Wor Grand Master – The Duke of Leinster and members of The Grand Lodge of Ireland to record that on the 4th August 1871 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales was installed in the Masonic Hall, Dublin as Patron of The Irish Freemasons. At the close of the ceremony H.R.H. rose and addressing His Grace The Duke of Leinster and the Brethren present said – Most Worshipful Sir and Brethren, Allow me to tender you one and all, my very sincere and heartfelt thanks for the great honour, which you have conferred upon me this day . . . . . .
        Click to enlarge                       Click to enlarge

Example No 3 has recently been discovered in The Orkney Islands and the owners have very kindly presented same to the museum and library of the P.G.L. of Antrim as the original recipient was the son of Thomas Valentine D.P.G.M. of Antrim at the end of the 19th century. This Address is in Book Form
, and is an address to Bro Thomas Henry Valentine from the members of Masonic Lodge No XXI on the occasion of his marriage on the 10th August 1872. This address was prepared by Messrs McCaw Stevenson Orr Ltd illustrators of Belfast.
        Click to enlarge                       Click to enlarge

         Click to enlarge                        Click to enlarge

          Click to enlarge                        Click to enlarge

                                Click to enlarge

Example No 4 is another Address in Book Form.
In this case it is a presentation to Bro Kenneth Macrae past master and secretary of True Blue Lodge No 272 in this case Burn’s poetry is used as a framework for the rest of the address in the extract–                
For a that and a that
Tis soul and heart and a that
That makes the King a gentleman
And not the crown and a that.

And whether he be rich or poor
The best is he for a that
Who stands erect in self respect
And acts the man for a that.

This address is an example of those produced by W & G Baird Ltd of Belfast.

                                     Click to enlarge

          Click to enlarge                       Click to enlarge

Example No 5 is a further example of an illuminated address bound into the Book Form. This example, from the workshops of Marcus Ward and Sons is a fine example of their calligraphy skills.

In Belfast, Marcus Ward & Sons were publishers and printers catering for the tastes of the newly emerging middle classes. From the middle of the 19th century, the firm expanded into stationary, ticketing, bookbinding, greeting cards, illuminated addresses and window decoration. They were  amongst the first to realise the potential for Christmas cards. The company were originally located in Cornmarket, in the centre o Belfast. Then they moved to Donegal Place and Fountain Street. Finally, in the year 1874, the company finally built a huge factory at Dublin Road, where some fourteen hundred employees found employment. With a design team of some forty artists, under the direction of John Vinycomb, a distinctive style and quality were quickly created. The staff studied copies of the Book of Kells and other mediaeval manuscripts and executed work of a similar style for illuminated addresses, A number of these addresses were exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exhibition. The Art Journal credits Marcus Ward with the revival of “this ancient decoration and for bringing it to its present high perfection”

This particular Address and Presentation to Bro John Adrain PM, PKRA, PP of HKT from the freemasons of Belfast, Ireland on the occasion of his leaving his native land.
           Click to enlarge                  Click to enlarge

           Click to enlarge                   Click to enlarge

          Click to enlarge                      Click to enlarge

           Click to enlarge                      Click to enlarge

           Click to enlarge                       Click to enlarge

            Click to enlarge                      Click to enlarge

Example No 6  is a Framed Address and Presentation presented to Bro G.H.Thompson PM, Secretary to Lodge 133. Dear Bro Thompson . .  We the Officers and Members of the Ulster Blue Star Masonic Lodge No 133 Comber, desire to give expression to our appreciation of your valuable services during the eighteen years you so ably discharged the responsible duties of Secretary, your sound advice and experienced guidance were always a great stimulus and a source of strength to the Brethren. This particular framed address was drawn up by W.Stevenson & Son Belfast.
                                 Click to enlarge

Example No 7 is another common version of a Framed Presentation. In this case calligraphy has been used to illuminate and enhance a standard Past Master’s Board for the Brethren of Royal Ulster Masonic Lodge No 274. The upper or original panel was drawn by Bro Charles Braithwaite in 1913 and has been finished to a high standard in gold, silver and vivid colours. Braithwaite was an accomplished illustrator, sometimes head of Art at Belfast Technical College, and is best known today for his work on St Patrick’s Psalter, which still has pride of place in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

It is interesting to note that a lesser hand had to prepare an extension board for 274 in 1940, and as you can clearly see, although well drawn, is not of the same standard as the original.
                                 Click to enlarge

Example No 8 is an uncommon form of Framed Presentation, having been prepared to mark the sudden death of a Ladies husband. The actual text reads as follows . . . .The Wor Master and Members of William Prince of Prussia Masonic Lodge No 431, Ballymena, desire to convey to Mrs Armstrong their sincere and deep felt feelings of sympathy and sudden bereavement by the untimely death of their old, highly valued and much appreciated Brother William M Armstrong, Manager of the Northern Bank, whereby she was bereft of a loving husband and  her dear young children of a fond father.  

                                             Click to enlarge

Example No 9 is another example of an illuminated address bound into the Book Form. In this case it is an address to Bro James Ritchie PM, PPSGW and an 18degree Mason. Dear Bro Ritchie . . . . We the Officers and Members of Falls Masonic Lodge No 226 desire on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of the Lodge, to convey to you an expression of the great regard and esteem entertained for you by all the Members of the Lodge, the Warrant of which, was taken out by you in 1870. We rejoice that you, our first WM, have been spared in health, to see the diamond jubilee of the Lodge and we trust tat you may be with us for many years to come . . .

It is, of course worth noting that this address is dated 1930, so Bro Ritchie had been a Past Master of Falls 226 for some 60 years.

           Click to enlarge                  Click to enlarge

           Click to enlarge                    Click to enlarge

          Click to enlarge                   Click to enlarge

                                   Click to enlarge

Example 10 is another application of the illuminated address, in this case being used as a backdrop for a Lodge Great War memorial. Here again the address is in the form of a Framed Presentation piece.. . . . . . It is set out as follows :-  The Great War 1914-1918 – For King and Country – Roll of Honour – Inch Masonic Lodge No 589 – followed by list of Brethren, where they served and if they were wounded, killed or returned home intact. This particular example was drafted, drawn and illuminated by Bro J.M.C.Knox Junior Warden of the Lodge, and was presented to the Lodge by him in 1919.
                                  Click to enlarge