Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Preston was a Scottish author, born in Edinburgh, on the 7th August, 1742. He died on April 1st, 1818. With the death of his father, Preston left college and found a job as a secretary to Thomas Ruddiman, with whom he carried out extensive research, required by the same in his classical and linguistic studies. With the death of Ruddiman, Preston became a printer for Walter Ruddiman , Thomas's brother, to whom he had been apprenticed.
After working in the printing office for about a year, he set out for London in 1760, intent upon making a name for himself as an author. One of his references was addressed to William Stranhan , the King's Printer , with whom Preston secured a position, which he retained for many years.
The exact date of Preston's initiation into Freemasonry is not known, but is thought to have been between 1762 and 1763, in London. His experiences from this point on made a deep impression upon him, inducing Preston to undertake a major study of Freemasonry, its origin and its teachings, and this effort was intensified when he was elected a Worshipful Master.
He discovered a vast body of traditional and historical lore in the old documents of the Craft, and begun modernizing the format of group meetings in such a way as to make ritual accessible, bringing a rudimentary knowledge of the arts and sciences to members of the Fraternity. Preston embarked upon detailed communication with Masons worldwide, so developing extensive knowledge of the Craft, and collecting the material which was to become his best known book, Illustrations of Masonry published in 1772.
He delved into the most obscure places in search of Masonic lore, and became a frequent visitor to many different Lodges. On 15th June, 1774, he visited the Lodge of Antiquity No. 1, (one of the four Lodges that formed the Grand Lodge of England in 1717), and was subsequently elected a member and Worshipful Master at the same meeting. He became an active member of the Grand Lodge, and was later appointed Deputy Grand Secretary under James Heseline .
After a brief period of expulsion from the fraternity for his support of a factional disagreement between the Grand Lodge of Moderns and the society over public use of ritual paraphernalia he was reinstated in 1787, all his honours and dignities restored, whereupon he resumed his Masonic activities.
From 1765 to 1772, Preston engaged in personal research and correspondence with Freemasons at home and abroad, absorbing all he could about Freemasonry and the arts it encouraged. He had taken the works of Freemasonry, and revised them in such form as to receive the approval of the leading members of the Craft.
New editions of his book were regularly demanded, and up to the present time it has gone through 20 editions in England, 6 in America, and several more in other European languages.
- "He was one of the first men to influence a change in the social standards prevalent in the old lodges. From a position as the youngest Entered Apprentice standing in the North East corner of his lodge, he progressed until he was recognized as the foremost Masonic Scholar of his generation, the name of William Preston is still pre-eminent in the annals of Freemasonry".
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