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fig1A clear example of this confusion is found on page 28, of the last Dominion Regalia catalogue which outlines two items for sale: first, something called degree charts (which we would typically call Tracing Boards), and second, something called the Master's Tracing Board. (see fig. 1.) The Dominion Regalia has the correct description of a Master's Tracing Board, specifically when it says that no regulation design is required. In fact, there is no regulation design for any of these items, specifically the degree charts or what we would call the Tracing Boards. For that reason I point out the absolute incorrectness of the statement below the pictures of the Degree Charts: "The only correct charts for Canadian or English work." There is no authority for that statement; there is no Body in either England or Canada, to the best of my knowledge, that has ever authorized the designs of any Tracing Boards to be used. Whether the Grand Lodge should require the use of Tracing Boards (as they do in this jurisdiction) is a different question.

The easiest way into the topic is to discuss the premises in which Masonic meetings took place. You will notice I didn't use the word "lodge," because that word has a variety of different meanings–even now, we interchangeably use the word to mean the place where we hold Masonic meetings and the unit of Freemasonry that we belong to. These are recent developments for the word, because the word has gone through a number of changes.

When talking about the Lodge,the best starting place is a very thorough history such as The Lodge, An Essay in Method by R.J. Meekren. AQC ,Vol. 61 (1948). This gives a lot of history about the original "lodges" but to make it brief, and to be specific, our concerns deal with the 18th century and onward. We know that Freemasons met in rooms that were not designated solely for the purposes of Freemasonry–that is, they met in back rooms of pubs, or hotels or private residences. The room, therefore, had to not only be made to look different during the meeting but also everything about the room had to go back to normal, or at least non-Masonic. It was not a problem to move chairs and candlesticks around, but those pieces of furniture did not make a room into a lodge–that is, something that related to the original "form of the Lodge."

Typically what was done was to draw on the floor (and this was the Tyler's job) either an oblong or a slight variation of an oblong that represented the form of the Lodge or the original enclosure of theoriginal outdoor Lodge meetings. This original shape was typically called an oblong square. It got renamed in the18th century to a word that has bedeviled us ever since: "parallelepipedon." There's a remnant of earlier language used in the Senior Warden's lecture in the First Degree; I quote from Page 45 of the Ancient Ritual: "Our ancient Brn. usually met on a high hill or in a low dale, the better to detect the approach of cowans or eavesdroppers either ascending or descending. The form of a L. is an oblong, its length from E. to W., its breadth from N. to S., its height from the earth to the heavens, its depth from the earth's surface to its center. It is of such vast dimensions to show the universality of Fmy and that M. charity should be equally extensive."

fig2Just to complete the cycle, the first reference to Hiram's grave is from the 1727 Wilkinson manuscript, where it is described, in a catechism, as an oblong square. Sometimes the form of the Lodge would simply be this oblong square, and sometimes the form of the Lodge would also include a variety of Masonic symbols. We know this from prints in the early Masonic Exposures such as The Three Distinct Knocks of 1760. (see fig. 2.)

This process of drawing the Lodge, and mopping up afterwards, is described in The Three Distinct Knocks and in Jachin and Boaz and Mahhabone. The process of cleaning up survives in our present ritual when at the end of the meeting, as per the Antient Ritual (Page 167), the following is said: "Nothing further remains to be done, according to ancient custom, except to disarrange our emblems." I believe that this reference to disarranging emblems refers to the cleaning up of the floor to leave no trace of the form of the Lodge or the contents drawn thereon.

Gradually, and there really is no set time frame here, Lodges came up with the idea of having Floor Cloths–that is, something that would be painted on and could be used over and over. The first references to these Lodge floorings that are painted occurs in French Exposures in the early 1740s. There are diagrams and examples of these Floor Coverings and also a reference to the fact that while some Lodges were using Lodge floorings, other Lodges refused to and would only use the form of the Lodge that was drawn on the floor rather than this newfangled invention. In fact there is a record of a Lodge Cloth being made in 1812, after many Tracing Boards were already in use..3