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Old Charges of the Operative Masons – Manuscript YORK No. I.


YORK MS. No. I.” (D)

About A.D., 1600.


An Anagraime upon the name of Masonrie
William Kay to his friend Robt Preston
vpon his Artt of Masonrie as followeth.

Much might be said of the noble Artt
A Crafts thats worth estieming in eich part
Sundry Nations Noobles & their Kings also
Oh how they sought its worth to know
Nimrod & Solomon the wisest of all men
Reason saw to love this Science then
Ile say noe more lest by my shallow verses I
Endeavouring to praise should blemish Masonrie.



THE might of the Father of heaven with wisedome of ye blessed Sonne through ye grace of God & goodnesse of ye holy ghost yt be three psons in one godhead be with vs at our beginning & give vs grace soe to governe vs here in this life yt we may come to his blessing yt nevr shall have ending: And good brethren & fellows our purpose is to tell yu how and in what manner this worty Science of Masonrie was begun & afterward how it was found by worty Kings & Princes & by many other Worshipfull men, And also to them yt be here we will declare ye charges yt belonge to every Free Mason to keep sure in good faith. And therefore take good heed hereto it is well worthy to be kept well for yt ye Science is ancient for there be vij liberall Sciences of ye wch it is one & ye names of ye seven Sciences be these. first Grammer wch teacheth a man to speak truly & write truly. And ye second is Rhetoricke & teacheth a man to speak faire plaine in subtile termes & ye third is Dielectick or Lodgick yt teacheth a man to discern truth from falshood. And ye fourth is Arithmetick & that teacheth a man to reckon & to accompt all mannr of numbs. And ye fifth is called Geomatrie & teacheth all measure of grounds of all other things of ye wch Science is grounded Masonrie: & ye fifth Science is called Musicke & yt teacheth a man ye Science of Song & violl of tongue & organ harp trumpett. And ye seventh Science is called Astronomie & yt teacheth a man to know ye course of ye Sonne Moone & Starrs.

These be ye vij liberall Sciences ye wch Seven be all grounded by one yt is to say Geometrie for by this may a man pve ye Essence of worke as founded by Geometrie so Geomatrie teacheth meat measure ponderation & weight of all manner of things on earth for there is noe man yt worketh any Science but he worketh by some measure or weight & all this is Geomatrie, & Marchants & all crafts men & all other of ye vij Sciences & espetially ye plower & tiller of all manner of graines & seeds planters of vinyeards sells of fruits, for in Grammer retorick nor astronome nor in any of all ye liberell Sciences can any man finde meat or measure without Geomatrie, me thinks yt this Science Geomatrie is most worthy & foundeth all others. How these worty Sciences was first begotten I shall yu tell viz. Before Noah flood there was a man called Lamech as is written in the Scripture in ye 4th Chaptr of Genesis And this Lamech had two wives ye one named Adah by whome he had two Sons ye one named Jabell ye other named Jubell. And his other wife was called Zillah by whome he had one sone named Tubelcaine & one daughter named Naamah & these four children founded ye beginning of all ye Sciences in ye world viz Jabell ye eldest Sone found out ye Science of Geomatre he was a keepr of flocks of sheep & Lands in the Fields as it is noted in ye Chaptr before sd And his brothr Juball fonnd ye Science of Musicke Song of Tongue harpe & organ And ye third Brother Tuball Caine found ye Science called Smith Craft of Gold Silvr Iron Coppr & Steele & ye Daughtr found ye ara of Weaving And these persons knowing right well yt God would take vengeance for sinne either by fire or water, wherefore they writt their severall Sciences yt they had found in two Pillers of stone yt they might be found aftr Noah his Flood And ye one stone was Marble because it would not burne wth fire & ye othr called Lternes because it would not dround wth watr now our intent is to tell yu how & in what manner these Stones were found in wch these Sciences were written the ancient Hermarines was a Cube his Son ye which Cub was Sem yt was Noahs Son; these Hermarines was after; called ye fathr of wise men. he found one of ye two pillers of Stone & he found ye Sciences written therein & he tought yt to other men. And at ye makeing of ye Toure of Babell there was Masonrie first much esteemed of & the King of Babilon yt was called Nimrod was A mason himselfe & loved well Masons & yt Science as it is said amonge Masters of Histories. And when ye city of Ninevie & othr cities of ye East should be builded Nimrod ye King of Babylon sent thither sy Masons at ye request of ye King of Ninevie his Cousen and when he sent them forth he gave them a charge on this mannr yt they should be true each one of them to othr & yt they should love well one anothr & yt they should serve their Lord truly for their pay soe yt ye mastr may have pay & all that belongeth unto him & othr moe charges he gave them & this was ye first time yt ever any Masons had any charge of his Craft. Moreover Abraham & Sarah his wife went into Egypt And there he tought ye vij Sciences to ye egyptians & and he had a worty Scholler named Euclide & he learned right well & was Mr. of all ye vij Sciences liberall & in his dayes it befell yt ye Lordes & States of ye Lands had soe many Sons some by their wives & some by their concubines for yt land is a hott land & plentious of Genration & they had not a competent p portion of estate wherewith to maintaine their sd Children, wherefore they tooke much care & the King of yt land caused a great counsell & sumaned a parliament to consult how they mighte pvide for their children whereon they mighte live honestly as Gentlemen & they could finde noe mannr of good way And then they made a pclamation throughout all ye Realme yt if there any yt could informe them therein yt he should come to ym & he should be well rewarded for his travaile so yt he should hould himselfe sattisfied. After this p clamation was made came this worthy Clarke Euclide & said to ye King & to his Nobles if yu will except of me to teach instruct & governe yr children in ye vij Sciences whereby they might live honestly as Gentlemen I shall do it upon condition yt you will grant me & them a Comission yt I may have power to rule them after ye manner ye Sciences ought to be ruled wch ye King & all ye Counsell granted him & Sealed ye Comsssion And then this worthy Doctor tooke to himselfe Lords Sonnes & tought them ye Science of Geomatrie & practise to worke in Stones all manner of worthy work yt belongeth to buildings Churches Temples Castles Toures mannos & all manner of Buildings & gave them in Charge on this mannor . First yt they should be true to ye Lord yt they serve & yt they should love well on another & yt they should be true one to anothr & yt they should call each other his Fellow or his Brother & not his Servt or Knave or othr foule names & yt they should truly deserve their pay of their Lord or ye Mr yt they serve & yt they should ordaine ye wisest of them to be Mr of ye worke & neithr to chuse for Love nor efection nor great nor riches to sett any yt hath nor sufficient Knowledge and cunning in ye worke to be Mr of ye worke whereby ye Mr should be evill served & they disgraced or ashamed & also yt they should call ye govr nor of ye worke Mr dureing ye time yt they worke with him & other more charges yt is to long here to tell & to all these Charges he made them to sweare a great Oath that men used in yt time & ordained for them reasonable pay or Wages yt they might live honestly thereby & also yt they should come & assemble themselves together once every yeare and consult how they might best worke for their Lords pfitt & their own credit & to correct within themselves him yt trespassed agt ye Science & thus was ye Science grounded there & yt worthy Mr Euclid was ye first yt gave it ye name of Geomatrie the wch is now called Masonrie throughout all this nation And after yt when ye children of Israell were comd into ye land of Behest which is now called among us ye Countrie of Jurie King David begun ye Temple yt is now called Temple Dom & is named with us ye Temple of Jerusalem & ye sd King David loved well Masons & cherished them much & he gave them good wages & he gave them both ye charges & mannrs as he had learned in Egypt given formerly by Euclid and other moe charges yt yu shall hear afterwards after ye decease of King David Solomon his Son finished out ye sd Temple yt his father had begun & he sent for Masons into divers countreys of divers Lands & gathered them together soe yt he had four score thousand workers of stone & were all named Masons he chose out of them three thousand yt was ordained to be Mrs. & govrnors of his worke And furthermore there was A King of anothr Region yt men called Hieram & he loved King Sollomon well & he gave him Timbr to his worke And he had a Sonne named Amon & he was a Mr of Geomatrie & he was chief Mr of all his graveings, Carvings & all of his Masons & Masonrie as appeares in Scripe in Libro primo Regnj & Chaptr ye 5th And this Sollomon Confirmed both Charge & mannrs yt his Father had given to Masons & thus was yt worthy Science of Masonrie confirmed in yt Country of Jurie & at ye City of Jerusalem And in many othr Kingdomes Curious Craftsmen walked abt out full wide & spred themselves into divers Countryes some to Learne moe craft & cunning & some to teach them yt had little skill & cunning And yt befell yt there was one Curious Mason called Namus Grecas yt had beine at ye building of Sollomons Temple & he came into France & there he taught ye Science of Masonrie to men of France & there was one of Royall line of France called Charles Martall & he was a man yt loved well such a Craft & he drue to this Namus Grecas above said & he learned of him ye Craft & tooke upon him ye charge & mannrs & aftwards by ye Providence of God he was elected King of France & when he was in ye Estate he tooke & helped to make men Masons wch before were none & gave them both ye charge & ye mannrs & good pay as he had learned of othr Masons & also confirmed a Chartr from yeare to yeare to hold their Assembly where they would And cherished them right much thus came this famous Craft into France. England in all this time stood void of Masonrie espetialy for any Charge imposed upon yt Science untill St. Albons time & in his days ye King of England yt was then A pagan did wall ye Towne of St. Albons about & St. Albons was a worthy Kt & Steward of ye King’s Household & had Governaute of ye Realme & also had ye ordering of ye sd Town Walls & he Loved well Masons & cherished them right much & made their pay right good considering how wages & other things stood then for he them ijs – vi d a week & iij d for their nonfinch & before yt time through out all this Land a mason tooke but a Peny a day untill St. Albons advanced it as above sd & pcured them a Chartr of ye King & his Counsell whereby for to hold a general counsell & gave it ye name of Assembly & there at he was himself & helped to make men Masons & gave them a charge as yu shall here aftr hear. But it happened shortly after ye death of St. Albone yt there arose great warrs in England wch came out of divers nations soe that ye good ordr of Masonrie was destroyed untill ye days of King Athelston who was a worthy King of England & brought this land in good rest and peace & builded many great workes as Abbeys Tounes & othr mannrs of Buildings & loved well masons & he had a Son named Edwin & he loved Masons much more then his Father & he was a great practionr in Geomatrie & he delited much to talke & comune with Masons & to learn of them skill & cunning & afterward for love he bore to masons & to their Science he was made a mason &c he pcured for them of ye King his father a chartr & Commission to hold every yeare an Assembly wheresoevr they would within ye Realm of England & to correct within themselves defaults & trespasses yt were done within ye craft & he himself held an Assembly at York & there he made masons & gave them the charges & taught them ye manners & comanded yt rule to be kept ever after & also tooke for them ye charter to keep & also gave ordr yt it should be renued from King to King. And when ye Assembly was gathered together he made pclamation yt all old masons or young yt had any writeings or undrstanding of ye charge & ye mannrs concerning ye sd Science yt were made before in this Land or any othr yt they should bring them forth & when they had viewed & examined there found some in French, some in Greek, some in English & some in othr Languages & ye intent & meaning of them was found all out & he had made a book thereof how ye Craft was founded & he himself gave comand yt it should be read or told when yt any Masons should be made & to give them ye Charge And from yt day to this day, Manrs of Masons have been kept & observed in yt forme as well as men might Observe & governe it. And furthermore at divese Assemblyes an Adition of certaine things in ye charges ordained by ye l est advice of Masters & Fellows – Tunc unus ex senioribus teneat Librum vt ille vell illi potiat vel potiant manus Sup Librum et tunc precpta deberent Legi — Every man yt is a Mason take right good heed to these Charges & if any man find himself guilty in any of these charges yt he amend himselfe before God & in pticulary yee yt are to be charged take good heed yt yee may keep these charges right well for it is prillous & great danger for a man to forsweare himself upon ye holy Scripture. The first Charge is that he or thou be true man to God & ye holy church & yt yu use neithr erour nor heresie according to yor own understanding or discreet & wise mens teaching & also yt he shall be truly lege man & bear true Allegiance to ye King of England without any treason or any othr falshood & if they know of any treason or treachery yt you amend it privily if ye may or else warne ye King or his counsell of it by declareing it to ye Magistrates. And alsoe yee shall be true one to anothr yt is to say to every Mason of ye Craft of Masonrie yt be allowed Masons yu shall doe to them as yu would they should doe to yu And yt ju keep truely all ye counsell of Lodge & chamber & all other counsell yt ought to be kept by way of Masonrie & also yt yu use noe theeverie but keep yorselves true. And also yu shall be true to ye Lord or Mastr yu serve & truly see his pfitt & advantage pmoted & furthred. And also you shall call Masons yor Brethren or Fellows but not any other foul name. And yu shall not take in villany yor Fellows wife nor unlawfully desire his daughtr or servt nor put him to any discredit. And also yt yu pay truly for yor meat & drink where yu goe to table & yt yu doe not any thing whereby ye craft may be Scandalized or whereby it may receive disgrace. These be ye charges in generall that belongeth every Mason to keep both Mastrs & Fellows. Now come I to rehearse certain othr charges singularly for Mastrs & Fellows viz That noe Mr take upon him any Lords Work or any other mens work except he know himself to be of suficient skill & Cuning to pform & finish ye same soe yt ye Craft thereby receive noe slander or discredit but yt ye Lord be wel served & have his work truly & suficiently done And also yt noe Mr take any work at unreasonable rates but so Reasonably yt, ye Lord or ownr may be true served wth his own goods & ye Mr to live honestly thereby & to pay his fellows truly their wages as ye mannr is. And also yt no Mr or Fellow shall suplant anothr of his work yt is to say if any Mr or Fellow have taken any work to doe & therefore stand as Mr of ye sd work yee shall not put him out of it unless he be unable of skill & Cuning to pforme ye same to ye end & also yt noe Mr or Fellow take any apprentice undr ye terme of Seven years & yet such aprntice suficiently able of body & sound of lymbs & also of good birth free born noe Alian but descended of a true & honest kindred & noe bondman & also yt noe mason take any aprntice unless he have suficient occupation whereon to employ two or three Fellows at ye least And also yt noe Mr or Fellow put any to take any Lords work yt was wont to work Journey work And also yt every Mr shall give wages to his Fellowes according to his worke doth deserve yt he be not deceived by false work. And also yt none shall slandr anothr behinde his back whereby he may loose his good name or wordly riches. Also yt no fellow within ye Lodge or without shall misanswer or reprove unlawfully anothr without cause. And also yt every Mason shall reverence his Eldr brothr & put him to honour. Also yt noe Mason shall be a comon player att cards or dice or any othr unlawfull game or games whereby ye Science may be slandered & disgraced & also yt noe fellow at any time goe from his fellowes of ye Lodge into any towne adjoining except he have a fellow with him to witness yt he was in honest place & civill company. And also yt every Mr & fellow shall come to ye Assemblie of Masons if it be within 1 : mile about him if he have any warning of ye same. And if he or they have trespassed or offended against ye craft all such soe trespassing shall stand there at ye award & Arbitration of ye Mastrs & Fellowes there & they to make them accord if they can or may & if they cannot agree them then to goe to ye comon Law & also yt no Mr or Fellow make any mould rule or square of any Layer nor set any Layer or without to hew any mould stones. And that every Mason shall cherish strange fellowes when they come out of othr Countreys & set them on worke if he can as ye manr is viz. if he have no Stones nor moulds in yt place he shall refresh him wth money to suply his necesityes untill he come at ye next Lodge. And also yt every Mason shall pforme his work truly & not sleightily for his pay but serve his Lord truly for his wages & also yt every Mr shall truly make an end of his work whether it be by Tax or by Jorney viz by measure or by dayes if he have his pay & all othr covents pformed to him by ye Lord of ye work according to ye bargaine. These Charges yt we have now rehearsed to yu & to all oths here prsent wch belongeth to Masons yu shall well & truly keep to yor powr so help you God &: by ye contents of yt booke—Amen.



(An exact Transcript of the original, by W. J. Hughan.)


In, Old Charges of the British Freemasonry  by William Hughan

The book can be purchased from HERE

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