Page 31 - MFM MAY 2014
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Montana Freemason  May 2014                                Volume 90 Number 2

   The Cooke MS. was most certainly in the hands           of the Craft after its initial appearance. It appeared in
of Mr. George Payne, when in his second term as            one of the most interesting and momentous periods
Grand Master in 1720 he compiled the “General              of modern Speculative Masonry, namely, in the years
Regulations”, and which Anderson included in his           between the organization of the first Grand Lodge in
own version of the “Constitutions” published in 1723.      1717 and the appearance of Anderson’s Constitution
Anderson himself evidently made use of lines 901-          in 1723. It is the earliest printed version of the Old
960 of the MS.                                             Charges known to exist.

   The Lodge Quatuor Coronati reprinted the                   Another well-known printed version is that
Cooke in facsimile in Vol. II of its Antigrapha in         published in 1724 and known as the Briscoe. This
1890, and included therewith a Commentary by               was the second publication of its kind. The third
George William Speth which is, in my own amateur           printed version was issued in 1728-9 by Benjamin
opinion, an even more brilliant piece of work than         Cole, and known as the Cole Edition in consequence.
Gould’s Commentary on the Regius. Some of Speth’s          This version is considered a literary gem in that the
conclusions are of permanent value. I paraphrase his       main body of the text is engraved throughout in most
findings in my own words:                                  beautiful style. A special edition of this book was made
                                                           in Leeds, 1897, the value of which was enhanced by one
   The M.S. is a transcript of a yet older document and    of W.J. Hughan’s famous introductions. For our own
was written by a Mason. There were several versions        modern and practical purposes the most important
of the Charges to a Mason in circulation at the time.      of all the versions ever made was that compiled by
The MS. is in two parts, the former of which is an         Dr. James Anderson in 1723 and everywhere known
attempt at a history of the Craft, the latter of which is  familiarly as “Anderson’s Constitution.” A second
a version of the Charges. Of this portion Speth writes     edition appeared, much changed and enlarged, in
that it is “far and away the earliest, best and purest     1738; a third, by John Entick, in 1756; and so on every
version of the ‘Old Charges’ which we possess.” The        few years until by 1888 twenty-two editions in all
MS. mentions nine “articles”, and these evidently were     had been issued. The Rev.A.F.A. Woodford, Hughan’s
legal enforcements at the time; the nine “points” given    collaborator, edited an edition of The Constitution
were probably not legally binding but were morally         Book of 1723 as Volume I of Kenning’s Masonic
so. “Congregations” of Masons were held here and           Archeological Library, under date of 1878. This is
there but no “General Assembly” (or “Grand Lodge”);        a correct and detailed reproduction of the book
Grand Masters existed in fact but not in name and          exactly as Anderson first published it, and is valuable
presided at one meeting of a congregation only. “Many      accordingly.
of our present usages may be traced in their original
form to this manuscript.”                                     Anderson’s title page is interesting to read: “The
III. ANDERSON’S CONSTITUTIONS AND OTHER                    CONSTITUTION, History, Laws, Charges, Orders,
PRINTED VERSIONS                                           Regulations, and Usages, of the Right Worshipful
                                                           FRATERNITY of ACCEPTED FREE MASONS;
   One of the most important of all the versions           collected from their general RECORDS, and their
of the Old Charges is not an ancient original at all,      faithful TRADITIONS of many Ages. To be read
but a printed edition issued in 1722, and known as         At the Admission of a NEW BROTHER, when the
the Roberts, though it is believed to be a copy of an      Master or Warden shall begin, or order some other
ancient document. Of this W.J. Hughan writes: “The         Brother to read as follows, etc.” After the word
only copy known was purchased by me at Brother             “follows” Anderson’s own version of Masonic history
Spencer’s sale of Masonic works, etc. (London, 1875),      begins with this astonishing statement:
for 8 pounds 10s., on behalf of the late Brother R.F.
Bower, and is now in the magnificent library of the           “Adam, our first Parent, created after the Image of
Grand Lodge of Iowa, U.S.A.” This tiny volume is easily    God, the great Architect of the Universe, must have
the most priceless Masonic literary possession in          had the Liberal Sciences, particularly Geometry,
America, and was published in exact facsimile by the       written on his Heart, etc.”
National Masonic Research Society, with an eloquent
Introduction by Dr. Joseph Fort Newton in 1916. The           Thus did Dr. Anderson launch his now thrice
Reverend Edmund Coxe edited a famous reprint in            familiar account of the history of Freemasonry, an
1871. It is a version meriting the most careful study      account which, save in the hands of the most expert
on the part of the Masonic student because it had a        Masonic antiquarian, yields very little dependable
decided influence on the literature and jurisprudence      historical fact whatsoever, but which, owing to
                                                           the prestige of its author, came to be accepted for

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