Beautiful Square and Compasses Set 

circa. 1785

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This is one of the most beautiful Square and Compass Sets that this curator has ever seen.  They were custom made in the Georgian style by an English jeweler who Hallmarked his initials and the date 1785 onto them.   The period dates to the time our Founding Fathers were establishing freedom in America and they could easily have been used here to set a Lodge to Work.  The Compasses measure 4 3/4 inches long and the Square measures 3 3/4 inches.

As in Operative Freemasonry, the compasses are used for the admeasurements of the architect's plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which will ensure beauty as well as stability to his work; so, in Speculative Freemasonry, is this important implement symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter.  Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only measure of a Freemason's life and conduct.  As the Bible gives us Light on our duties to God, and the square illustrates our duties to our neighborhood and Brother, so the compasses give that additional light which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves--the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions, and keeping our desires within due bounds.  "It is ordained," says the philosophic Burke, "in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters."   Those Brethren who delight to trace our emblems to an astronomical origin, find in the compasses a symbol of the sun, the circular pivot representing the body of the luminary, and the diverging legs his rays.  In the earliest rituals of the eighteenth century, the compasses are described as a part of the furniture of the Lodge, and are said to belong to the Master.  Some change will be found in this respect in the ritual of the present day.  The word is sometimes spelled and pronounced compass, which is more usually applied to the magnetic needle and circular dial or card of the mariner from which he directs his course over the seas, or the similar guide of the airman when seeking his destination across unknown territory.

The Square is one of the most important and significant symbols in Freemasonry.  As such, it is proper that its true form should be preserved.  French Freemasons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other (like the one pictured above) thus making it a carpenter's square.   American Freemasons, following the incorrect delineations of Brother Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches; thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not.  It is simply the trying square of a stone-mason, and has a plain surface; the sides or legs embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.  In Freemasonry, the square is a symbol of morality.   This is its general signification, and applied in various ways:  1.  It presents itself to the neophyte as one of the Three Great Lights.  2.  To the Fellow Craft as one of his Working-tools.  3.  To the Master Mason as the official emblem of the Master of the Lodge.  Everywhere, however, it inculcates the same lesson of morality, of truthfulness, of honesty.  So universally accepted is this symbolism, that it has gone outside of the Order, and has been found in colloquial language communicating the same idea.    The Square, says Halliwell, Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, means honest, equitable, as in "square dealing."  To play upon the square is proverbial for to play honestly.  In this sense the word is found in the old writers.  As a Masonic symbol, it is of very ancient date, and was familiar to the Operative Masons.   In the year 1830, the architect, in rebuilding a very ancient bridge called Baal Bridge, near Limerick, in Ireland, found under the foundation-stone an old brass square, much eaten away, containing on its two side surfaces the following inscription, the U being read as V:  I. WILL STRIUE. TO. LIUE.--WITH. LOUE. & CARE.--UPON. THE LEUL.--BY. THE. SQUARE., and the date 1517.  The modern Speculative Freemason will recognize the idea of living on the level and by the square.  This discovery proves, if proof were necessary, that the familiar idea was borrowed from our Operative Brethren of former days.  The square, as a symbol in Speculative Freemasonry, has therefore presented itself from the very beginning of the revival period.  In the very earliest catechism of the eighteenth century, of the date of 1725, we find the answer to the question, "How many make a Lodge?" is "God and the Square, with five or seven right or perfect Masons."  God and the Square, religion and morality, must be present in every Lodge as governing principles.  Signs at the early period were to be made by squares, and the Furniture of the Lodge was declared to be the Bible, Compasses, and Square.  In all rites and in all languages where Freemasonry has penetrated, the square has preserved its primitive signification as a symbol of morality.




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