THE MASONIC FIRST FOLIO
by Mather Walker 2008
In the First Folio, on the page immediately after the title page, there is a dedication to the two Herbert brothers, William and Philip, who were close friends of Francis Bacon. This dedication is designed to show the basic Masonic nature of the First Folio. At the top of this dedication the word “most” above the word “and” is designed to spell out the word MASON.
But it is important to realize also, that in addition to the tip off of “Mason” and "Brethren" at the top that The Dedication specifically refers to the Fellow Craft degree, i.e., to degree number 2 of the Ancient Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry, in connection with William Shakspere. We see this about half way through the dedication:
“so worth a friend & FELLOW, as was our SHAKESPEARE”
“FELLOW” obviously refers to the title given the initiate in the 2nd, or Fellow Craft degree. Once this is realized the double letters (2’s, i.e., the “LL’s” and the “HH’s”) in have a special signification. This points to another allusion that his built into this highly cryptic dedication. The word “MASON” at the top is in a winding or spiral shape. In his “Symbolism of Freemasonry” Albert Mackey says there is only one legend that is attached to the Fellow Craft degree-the legend of the Winding Stairs to the Middle Chamber, and to the symbolic payment of the workmen’s wages. The We may infer from this that William Shakspere of Stratford on Avon had been inducted into Francis Bacon’s Masonic fraternity, and that he was a Fellow Craft. Perhaps the blood curling oaths in the ritual and his membership in the fraternity explains how it was possible to keep him from ‘spilling the beans’ about the conspiracy. This has a further allusion, the legend of the Winding Stair in Fellow Craft degree says that the Middle Chamber was where the Fellow Craft received his wages. What this tells us is that Shakspere was being paid for allowing Francis Bacon to use him as the ‘Shakespeare’ mask.
The Masonic lodge was a model of the world. This follows since it was built in imitation of the Temple of Solomon, which was a model of the world. According to the legend of the Fellow Craft the Winding Stair (or spiral shaped) stair begins just after the candidate has passed within the Porch between the two pillars at the entrance, and it represents the rising of the candidate in world as he gather more and more knowledge of the whole world. It is interesting that in his essay, “Of Great Place”, Bacon said:
“All rising to great place is by a winding staire”
This is just another of several bits of evidence that shows Francis Bacon was the one who formulated the Masonic ritual. The number of steps of the Winding Stair in all systems has always been odd-three, five, and so on.
The Dedication is constructed so the body of the dedication has the shape of the Masonic lodge, and it is designed to show the path the Fellow Craft follows in his movement up the winding stair of his advancement in the world, i.e., it starts at the bottom and moves up the spiral staircase. The word TEMPLE(S) is near the bottom, but not at the very bottom because the candidate must past the porch first. If you follow the occurrence of the double letters up the Dedication from the bottom of the Dedication you will see that they follow the pattern of a Winding Stair. You will also see that there are three of the “HH.s” and five of the “LL’s”-the odd number of steps just as in all the systems. The Archer device with the figure of Pan in the center at the top is there because Pan, or universal nature, represents the whole world, and the very top of the Winding Stair symbolized the initiates progress in attainment of knowledge of the whole world.
There are a few more points that might be noted here. For example, you have only to read the letters from Lady Bacon where she was sending food to Anthony and Francis while they were living at their chambers in Gray’s Inn to see how, “Country hands reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they haue” relates to Francis. Moreover the ‘gummes & incense’ relate to the activities within the temples.