Chapter 12

The Grand Lodge No.1 Manuscript (1583)


The Grand Lodge No. 1 Manuscript was written in 1583 on a scroll of par­chment – 5.08 x 109.5 in. long. France and England were at the time going through profound religious changes. In France, Henri III (1551-1589), the last of the Valois Kings, was on the throne while throughout most of Europe, Calvinist Protestant and Catholic forces were at war over their theological differences. In England, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), was determined the religious warfare would not break out in her country. The last of the Tudors, strong-willed and uncompromising, she worked hard to create a Church of England, which she described as the via media – the middle way. 

Despite many attempts at destabilization and outright conquest by the then Pope and foreign Catholic powers, England remained relatively peaceful and stable by comparison to Europe. There must be no doubt about it, religion, in the end, had little effect on the course of work and life of the Masons and stonecutters. They were involved on both sides of the Channel in an architectural revival, abandoning religious building of Gothic style for the construction of sumptuous princely and aristocratic homes.

The document - The Grand Lodge Manuscript, so named because it was acquired and preserved by the United Grand Lodge of England, is today considered as the third oldest of the English Old Charges, after the Regius (1390), and Cooke Manuscripts (1410). As in the other recognized Charges, especially those that belong to its family, it includes a definition of the seven Liberal Sciences, an evocation of the Craft history from the land of Egypt to that of England, and finally a statement of Regulations which must be strictly observed by Masons. 

Modern transcription into Modern English from Early English.

The Text

The might of the Father of heaven, and the wisdom of the glorious Son, through the grace of God, and the goodness of the Holy Ghost, that are three persons in one God, be with us at our beginning, and give us grace so to govern us here in this life, that we may come to His blessing, that never shall have ending. Amen.

GOOD BRETHREN and fellows, our purpose is to tell you how and in what manner this worthy Craft of Masonry was first begun and afterwards how it was kept and upheld by worthy kings and princes, and many other worshipful men. And also, to those that are here, we will declare the Char­ges that belong to every true Mason to keep in good faith; and therefore take good heed to it, for it is a Science that is worthy of being kept, for it is a worthy Craft; and is one of the seven liberal Sciences.

The names of the seven liberal Sciences are: 

• The first is Grammar that teaches a man to speak and write truly; 

• The second is Rhetoric that teaches a man to speak well, in subtle terms; 

• The third is Dialectic [Logic] that teaches a man to discern truth from falsehood. 

• The fourth is Arithmetic that teaches a man to reckon and count all kinds of numbers; 

• The fifth is Geometry that teaches a man to mete and measure the earth and all other things, which Science is called Geometry (1). 

• The sixth Science is called Music that teaches a man the Craft of song and voice of tongue, organ, harp and trumpet. 

• The seventh Science is called Astronomy that teaches a man to know the course of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

THESE are the seven liberal Sciences, which are all grounded upon one, that is to say Geometry. And a man may prove that the Science of the world is grounded upon Geometry, for it teaches a man the measure, consideration, and weight of all things on earth; for there is no man who can work any Craft, if he does not work by some measure or weight; nor any man who buys or sells but by some measure or weight, and all this is Geometry. 

Merchants and all Craftsmen, and others who use the seven Sciences, and especially the ploughmen and tillers of all types of grains and seeds, the planters of vineyards and setters of other fruit: for none can act without Geometry; neither in Grammar, Rhetoric, or Astronomy, nor in any of the others, can any man find length or measure without Geometry. So I think this Science may well be called the most worthy Science, for it is the foundation of all others.

I WILL now tell you how this worthy Science was first begun. Before Noah’s flood there was a man called Lameth [Lamech], as it is written in the Bible in the 4th chapter of Genesis. And this Lamech had two wives: one called Adaa and the other Sella; by his first wife Adaa he had two sons, one called Jabell [Jabal] and the other Juball. By his other wife Sella he had one son and one daughter; these four children founded the beginning of all the Scien­ces in the world. The oldest son Jabal discovered the Scien­ce of Geo­metry; he kept flocks of sheep and lambs in the fields, and built a house made of stone and wood, as it is noted in the chapter aforesaid. His brother Jubal founded the Science of Music, in song of tongue, harp, and organ. The third brother Tubalcain [Tubal-Cain] founded the smith’s Craft of gold, silver, copper, and iron. And the daughter founded the Craft of weaving. 

These children, knew right well that God would take vengeance for [man’s] sins either by fire or water; so they wrote out the Sciences that they had founded on two pillars of stone, that they might be found after Noah’s flood. One stone was marble that would not burn with fire and the other was made with a substance called Laterns [Lateres] because it would not drown in any water. Our intent is now to tell you how and in what manner these stones were found on which were written these Sciences. 

THE great Hermarines [Hermes], who was Cubye’s [Cush’s] son (2), who was Semm’s [Shem’s] son, who was Noe’s [Noah’s] son, this same Hermes, who was later called Hermes the Father of Wisdom, found one of the two pillars and the Sciences which were written on it. He taught them to other men. At the making of the Tower of Babylon [Babel] Masonry was much esteemed. The King of Babylon, named Nemroth [Nimrod] was a Mason himself and he loved well Masons and their Science, as said by Masters of Histories (3). And when the city of Nynyvie [Nineveh], and other cities of the East, were to be built, Nimrod, King of Babylon, sent thither [there] fortie [40] Masons (4) at the request of the King of Nineveh, his cousin; and when he sent them forth he gave them a Charge in this manner: That they should be true to each other; that they should live truly together; that they should serve their Lord [employer] truly for their pay, so that their task master should be treated with utmost respect with all that was due to his position. He gave them more Char­ges, and this was the first time a Mason had any Charges of his Craft.

MOREOVER Abraham and Sarah his wife went into Egypt, where he taught the seven Sciences to the Egyptians he possessed; and [he had] a worthy student named Ewckled [Euclid] who learned right well and became a Master of all the seven Sciences; and in his days it befell that the Lords and Estates of the land had so many sons, some by their wives and some by other ladies of the Kingdom, for that land was hot and plenteous of generation; and they had not enough means of livelihood to feed their children, which caused them much care. 

The King of that Land summoned a great Council to consult how they might provide for their children to live honestly as gentlemen; and they could find no good solution. So a proclamation was made throughout the realm that if anyone could find a solution to the problem, he should have to come to them and he should be well rewarded for his work, and would be well pleased. After this proclamation was made, the worthy clerk Euclid came and said to the King and to all his great nobles: 

“If you have me take your Children to govern and teach them one of the seven Sciences, they may live honestly as gentlemen should do. This on the condition that you grant me, and them, power to rule them in the manner that the Sciences ought to be governed.”

The King and all his Council granted him this immediately, and sealed the Commission; and then this worthy person took to himself the Lords’ sons and taught them the Science of Geometry, and to practice work in stones, of all manner of work that belong to building churches, temples, castles, towers, manors, and all other sorts of buildings; and he gave them a Charge in this manner: 

FIRST, that they should be true to the King and the Lords that they serve; that they should love well one another and be true to each other; that they should call each other Fellow or Brother and not servant, knave, or any other foul name; that they should truly deserve the money they received from the Lord or the Master that they served; and that they should not choose because of friendship, nor family, nor wealth, nor allow anyone being unskilled in the art of Masonry to be a Master of the work, so that the Lord would be poorly served and they would be dishonored; and also that they should call the Governor of the work Master, during the time they work with him. There were many other Charges, which are too long to tell.

And to all these Charges Euclid made them swear a great Oath, that men used at that time; and he ordained for them a reasonable pay that they might live honestly; also that they should come and assemble together once every year, and consult how they might best work for their Lord’s profit and their own credit; and correct within themselves who could have trespassed against the Craft. And this worthy clerk Euclid gave the name of Geometry to what is now called in this Land as Masonry.

AFTER that, when the children of Israel were come into the land of Behest which is now called by us the country of Jerusalem, King David began the Temple, which is called Templu Domi [Templum Domini], and is called by us the Temple of Jerusalem. And the said King David loved well Masons and cherished them greatly, and he gave them good wages, and also Charges and manners, as he had learned had been given in Egypt by Euclid, and other Charges that you shall hear about later on. After the death of King David, Solomon his son finished the said Temple that his father had begun. He sent for Masons into many countries and lands, and gathered them together so that he had four score thousand [80,000] workers of stone who were named Masons, and from those he chose  three thousand that were ordained to be Masters and governors of his works. 

And furthermore, there was a King of another region that men called Iram [Hiram], who loved King Solomon well and gave him timber for his work. And he had a son named Aynone [Amon, or similar names] who was a Master of Geometry, and a Chief Master of all his Masons, as he was Master of engravings, carvings, and all manner of Masonry connected to the Temple, as it appears in the Scriptures, in the fourth Book of the Kings (5), chapter 3. Solomon confirmed both the Charges and manners that his father had given to Masons, and so the worthy Craft of Masonry was confirmed in the country of Jerusalem, and in many other Kingdoms.

CURIOUS Craftsmen walked widely about into other countries, some to learn more craft, and some to teach others that had little skill and cunning. And it happened that there was one curious Mason named Naymus Grecus [Naymus Graecus, or similar names] (6) that had been at the building of Solomon’s Temple; he came into France and there he taught the Science of Masonry to men of that land. And there was one of the royal line of France called Charles Martell [Martel], and he was a man that loved well such a Craft, and came to this Naymus Graecus, and learned from him the Craft, and took upon himself the Charges and manners. Afterwards, by the providence of God, he was elected King of France; and when he was in his estate he took and helped to make men Masons who previously had not been; and he gave them both their Charges and manners, and a good pay as he had learned about from other Masons; he also confirmed for them a Charter to hold from year to year their Assembly wherever they would like, and cherished them right well, and thus came the Craft into France.

ENGLAND in all this time stood void of any Charge of Masonry, until St. Albons’ [Alban’s] time, and in his days the King of England, then a pagan, did wall the town that is now called St. Albons [Albans]. And St. Alban was a worthy Knight and Steward of the King’s household, and had the government of the realm, and also of the walls of the said town; he loved and cherished Masons right well, and made their pay right good (according the standing of the realm), for he gave them 2 shillings 6 pence a week and three pence to their cheer [food and drinks]; for before that time, throughout all the land, a Mason took but a penny a day and his meat, until St. Alban amended it. He procured for them [the Masons] a Charter from the King and his Council, to hold a general council together, and gave it the name of Assembly; and after having himself [become a Mason], he helped to make men Masons, and gave them a Charge, as you shall hear afterwards right soon.

BUT it happened after the death of St. Alban that there arose great wars in England, which came out of many nations, so that the good rule of Masonry was destroyed; until the days of Knight Athelston [Athelstan], who was a worthy King of England, who brought the land into good rest and peace, and built many great works, such as abbeys, towers, and many other buildings. He loved well Masons; and he had a son named Edwin, that loved Masons much more than his father did, and was a great practitioner of Geometry. He often went to talk and commune with Masons to learn the Craft from them; and afterwards for the love that he had for Masons and for their Craft, he was made a Mason. He procured for them from the King his father a Charter and a Commission to hold every year an Assembly, wherever they would wish within the realm of England, in order to correct among themselves all faults and trespasses that were done within the Craft; and he himself held an Assembly at York, and there he made Masons and gave them Charges and taught them manners, and commanded that rule to be kept forever after; he gave them also the Charter and the Commission to keep, and also made an Ordinance that should be renewed from King to King. 

And when the Assembly was gathered together he [Edwin] made a proclamation that all Masons who had any writings or understanding of the Charges and manners which had been made before in this land or in any other, should bring them forth; and when it had been done, some were found in French, some in Greek, and some in English, and some in other languages, but the same intent was found in all of them. He [Edwin] made a Book there of how the Craft was founded, and he himself commanded that it should be read when any Masons should be made. From that day until now the manners of Masons have been kept and observed in that form, as well as men might observe and govern it.

And furthermore at various Assemblies there have been added certain Charges made and ordained with the best advice of Masters and fellows. 

Tunc Vnus ex Senioribus tenent libru & ille vel illi apposuerut manus sub libru et tunc precepta deberent legi &c. (7).

EVERY man that is a Mason take right good heed to these Charges, and if any man find himself guilty of any of them, that he amend himself before God. And in particular, you that are to be charged, take good heed to keep these Charges right well, for it is of great peril and great danger for a man to forswear himself upon a Book (8).

1. - The first Charge is that you shall be true men to God and the Holy Church, and that you use neither error nor heresy in your own understanding, and be discreet and wise men in each thing.

2. - You shall be true liegemen to the King of England without any treason or any falsehood; and if you know of any that you amend it privately, if you can, or else warn the King and his Council of it by declaring it to his officers.

3. - You shall be true to one another, that is to say to every Mason of the Craft of Masonry who are allowed Masons (9), and do unto them as you would they should do unto you.

4. - You shall keep truly all the counsels of your fellows whether [expressed] in the Lodge or in the Chamber, and all other counsels, that ought to be kept by the way of Masonry.

5. - Also, that no Mason shall be a thief, or otherwise, as far as he may know.

6. - Also, you shall be true to each other, and to the Lord, or Master, that you serve; and truly see to his profit and advantage.

7. - And also, you shall call Masons your Brethren or fellows, and use no foul name.

8. - And also, you shall not take your fellows’s wife in villainy, nor desire ungodly his daughter, nor his servant, nor put him to any discredit.

9. - And also, that you pay truly for your meat and drink wherever you go to board, and also that you do no wrong in the place where you go boarding whereby the Craft might be slandered.

THESE are the Charges in general that concern every Mason, which have to kept by both Masters and fellows. I will now repeat certain other singular Charges that concern Masters and fellows:

First, that no Master or fellow shall take upon himself any Lord’s work, or any other man’s work, unless he knows himself to be of sufficient skill and cunning to perform it in such a way that the Craft receive no slander or dishonor thereby, but that the Lord be well and truly served.

2. - Also, that no Master [shall] take any work at unreasonable rates, so that the Lord or owner may be well served with his own good and the Master [may] live honestly and pay his fellows truly their wages, as the manner is.

3. - Also, that no Master nor fellow shall supplant any others of their work; that is to say, if he has taken a work in hand or else stands as Master of the Lord’s work, he shall not put him out of it, unless he is unable to complete the work.

4. - And also, that no Masters nor fellows, [shall] take any apprentice but for the term of seven years, and that such apprentice shall be able of birth, that is to say free-born, and with all his limbs as a man ought to be.

5. - And also, that no Masters nor fellows [shall] take any allowance [from an apprentice] to be made a Mason without the assent and counsel of his fellows; and take him for no less time than six or seven years. 

6. - And that he who shall be made a mason [shall] be able in all manner of degrees, that is to say free born, of good kindred and no bondman; and also that he may have his right [correct] limbs, as a man ought to have.

7. - Also, that no Mason [shall] take any apprentice unless he has sufficient occupation for him, or to employ two or three fellows at the least.

8. - And also, that no Master or fellow shall take any man’s work as task  work that was customarily done as journey work.

9. - Also, that every Master shall give wages to his fellows as they deserve, so that he will not be deceived by false workmen.

10. - Also, that no Mason shall slander another behind his back to make him lose his good name or his worldly possessions.

11. - Also, that no fellow, within the Lodge or without it shall answer another in an ungodly or reproachful manner, without some reasonable cause.

12. - Also, that every Mason shall reverence his elder Brother and put him to honor.

13. - And also that no Mason shall be a common player at game of chance or dice, or at any other unlawful games, whereby the Craft may be slandered.

14. - And also, that no Mason shall be lecherous or bawdy whereby the Craft might be slandered.

15. - And also, that no fellow [shall] go at night time into the town, where there is a Lodge of fellows, without having a fellow with him, who may witness that he was in honest places.

16.o-oAlso that every Master and fellow shall come to the Assembly of Masons if it is [held] within 50 miles from him, if he has any notice. 

17. - And if he has trespassed against the Craft, then he shall abide by the award [penalty decision] of the Masters and fellows.

18. - Also that every Master and fellow who have trespassed against the Craft shall stand there at the disposal of the Masters and fellows who will rule on their case; if they cannot get any agreement, the case will go to the Common Law Court.

19. - Also, that no Master nor fellow [shall] make any mould, nor square, nor rule for any Layer (10), nor set a Layer within the Lodge or outside of it, to hew any mould stones. 

20. - And also, that every Mason shall receive and cherish strange fellows when they come out of other countries; and set them on work if he can, as the manner is, that is to say if they have mould stones in that place, otherwise he shall refresh him [them] with money to get to the next lodging.

21. - Also, that every Mason shall truly serve the Lord for his pay and that every Master make an end of his work whether it be task or journey, if he has his commands and what he ought to have.

THESE Charges that we have now rehearsed to you, and all others that belong to Masons, you shall keep. So help you God and your Hallydome [Holy-Dome] (11). And by this book in your hand unto your power. 

Amen, So be it. 

Scriptum Anno Domini 1583

Die Decembris 25.


1. - In this Manuscript it is said that The Science of Geometry is called... Geometry; when it is clearly specified in the Inigo Jones Ms (1607) and the Sloane No 3848 Ms (1646) that the fifth Science, Geometry, is also called the Science of Masonry.

2. -There is no Cubye in Genesis: Ham, Shem’s brother, however, has a son named Cush.

3. - The transcriber wrote in the manuscript Histories’ Masters (double plural) instead of Histories’ Master, a nickname given to Petrus Comestor (1110-1179), a theologian and regular canon of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris .

4. - The number of Masons sent by Nimrod to his cousin Asshur is: fortie (40), when it was 30 hundred (3,000) in the Cooke Manuscript. It will be: only sixe in the Sloane No. 3848 Manuscript, and threescore (60) in other Old Constitutions.

5. - See Chapter 7, Note 14.

6. - Naymus Grecus, also called Naemus Graecus, Manus Graecus, Memon Grecus, Marcus Graecus or Namus Grenatus, is a mythical character without precise origin. After having served King Solomon (ten centuries BC) according to the story he would have introduced the Science of Masonry into the kingdom of Charles Martel (eight centuries AD) who would have become his protector.

7. - “Then let one of the elders hold the book out to him who is taking the oath, and let him place his hand on the book or on top of the book, while the Articles and Precepts are read.” 

The Original text does not specify what “The Book” is, but according to the Craft tradition this should be the Book of Char­ges, rather than the Bible.

8. - See Note 6.

9. - The meaning of Allowed Mason in this manuscript, as well as in the York Manuscript No. 1, is uncertain. Albert Mackey (1807-1881) thought that it could be an early form of Accepted Mason, a man not practicing manual stonemasonry, who has been accepted into the Lodge for va­rious reasons. It might also mean some­one who is recognized as a Ma­son, such as a traveling stoneworker who has shown that he has been initiated and is entitled to being treated as a Brother.

10. - Layer - Laying Mason. 

11. - Hallydome - Evident alteration of Holy-Dome, Holy-Doom, or Halidom (Holy Judgment in Sa­xon).

© Guy Chassagnard 2016