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Montana Freemason                                           May 2014                                             Volume 90   Number 2

          the erudite doctor was followed by Hughan, Gould  forth-coming, but W. Harry Rylands and others have
          and their colleagues, and his classif cation still holds  been of the opinion that the f rst written versions were
          in general; attempts have been made in recent years  made in response to a general Writ for Return issued
          to upset it, but without much success. One of the best  in 1388. Rylands’ words may be quoted: “It appears to
          charts, based on Begemann, is that made by Brother  me not at all improbable that much, if not all, of the
          Lionel Vibert, a copy of which will be published in a  legendary history was composed in answer to the Writ
          future issue of THE BUILDER.                         for Returns issued to the guilds all over the country,
                                                               in the twelf h year of Richard the Second, A.D. 1388.”
             T e  f rst known printed reference to these Old
          Charges was made by Dr. Robert Plot in his Natural      (A.Q.C. XVL page 1)
          History of Staf ordshire, published in 1868. Dr. A.F.A.
          Woodford and William James Hughan were the f rst  II. THE TWO OLDEST MANUSCRIPTS
          to undertake a scientif c study. Hughan’s Old Charges
          is to this day the standard work in English. Gould’s    In 1757 King George II presented to the British
          chapter in his History of Masonry would probably  Museum a collection of some 12,000 volumes, the
          be ranked second in value, whereas the voluminous  nucleus of which had been laid by King Henry VII and
          writings of Dr. Begemann, contributed by him to  which came to be known as the Royal Library. Among
          Zirkelcorrespondez, of  cial organ of the National  these books was a rarely beautiful manuscript written
          Grand Lodge of Germany, would, if only they were  by hand on 64 pages of vellum, about four by f ve inches
          translated into English, give us the most exhaustive  in size, which a cataloger, David Casley, entered as No.
          treatment of the subject ever yet written.           17 A-1 under the title, “A Poem of Moral Duties: here
                                                               entitled Constitutiones Artis Gemetrie Secundem.”
             T  e Old Charges are peculiarly English. No such  It was not until Mr. J.O. Halliwell, F.R.S. (af erwards
          documents have ever been found in Ireland. Scotch  Halliwell-Phillipps), a non-Mason, chanced to make
          manuscripts are known to be of English origin. It was  the discovery that the manuscript was known to be
          once held by Findel and other German writers that  a Masonic document. Mr. Phillipps read a paper on
          the English versions ultimately derived from German  the manuscript before the Society of Antiquaries
          sources, but this has been disproved. T  e only known  in 1839, and in the following year published a
          point of similarity between the Old Charges and such  volume entitled Early History of Freemasonry in
          German documents as the Torgau Ordinances and  England (enlarged and revised in 1844), in which he
          the Cologne Constitutions is the Legend of the Four  incorporated a transcript of the document along with
          Crowned Martyrs, and this legend is found among  a few pages in facsimile. T  is important work will be
          English versions only in the Regius Manuscript.  found incorporated in the familiar Universal Masonic
          As Gould well says, the British MSS. have “neither  Library, the rusty sheepskin bindings of which strike
          predecessors nor rivals”; they are the richest and  the eyes on almost every Masonic book shelf. T is
          rarest things in the whole f eld of Masonic writings.  manuscript was known as “T  e Halliwell”, or as “T e
                                                               Halliwell-Phillipps” until some f f y years atf erwards
             When the Old Charges are placed side by side  Gould rechristened it, in honour of the Royal Library
          it is immediately seen that in their account of the  in which it is found, the “Regius”, and since then this
          traditional history of the Craf  they vary in a great  has become the more familiar cognomen.
          many particulars, nevertheless they appear to have
          derived from some common origin, and in the main        David Casley, a learned specialist in old
          they tell the same tale, which is as interesting as a  manuscripts, dated the “Regius” as of the fourteenth
          fairy story out of Grimm. Did the original of this  century. E.A. Bond, another expert, dated it as of the
          traditional account come from some individual or  middle of the f f eenth century. Dr. Kloss, the German
          was it born out of a f oating tradition, like the folk  specialist, placed it between 1427 and 1445. But the
          tales of ancient people? Authorities dif er much on  majority have agreed on 1390 as the most probable
          this point. Begemann not only declared that the f rst  date. “It is impossible to arrive at absolute certainty
          version of the story originated with an individual, but  on this point,” says Hughan, whose Old Charges
          even set out what he deemed to be the literary sources  should be consulted, “save that it is not likely to be
          used by that Great Unknown. T  e doctor’s arguments  older than 1390, but may be some twenty years or so
          are powerful. On the other hand, others contend that  later.” Dr.W. Begemann made a study of the document
          the story began as a general vague oral tradition, and  that has never been equalled for thoroughness, and
          that this was in the course of time reduced to writing.  arrived at a conclusion that may be given in his own
          In either event, why was the story ever written? In all  words: it was written “towards the end of the 14th or
          probability an answer to that question will never be  at least quite at the beginning of the 15th century (not
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