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The Matthew Cooke Manuscript

 

 

 

Source: Wikipedia

The Matthew Cooke Manuscript is the oldest of a class of about one hundred early documents known as Freemasonry’s Gothic Constitutions, and the second oldest known manuscript in Masonic history. Typically, the Gothic Constitutions included an invocation, a mythical legend of ancient Masonry, a list of charges and regulations for Masons, and an oath or obligation.

The manuscript was published by R. Spencer, London, in 1861 and it was edited by Mr. Matthew Cookehence the name. In the British Museum’s catalogue it is listed as “Additional M.S. 23,198”, and has been dated by William James Hughan (18411911) at 1450 or thereabouts, an estimate in which most of the specialists have concurred.

Dr. Wilhelm Begemann (18431914) believed the document to have been “compiled and written in the southeastern portion of the western Midlands, say, in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire, possibly also in southeast Worcestershire or southwest Warwickshire. The ‘Book of Charges’ which forms the second part of the document is certainly of the 14th century, the historical or first part, of quite the beginning of the 15th.” (A.Q.C. IX, page 18)

It is a copy of parts of two older manuscripts which have not survived, as is indicated by a break in the text and the repetition of a portion.

The Cooke manuscript was most certainly in the hands of Mr. George Payne, when in his second term as Grand Master in 1720 he compiled the “General Regulations,” and which Anderson included in his own version of the “Constitutions” published in 1723. Anderson himself evidently made use of lines 901960 of the manuscript.

The Lodge Quatuor Coronati reprinted the manuscript in facsimile in Vol. II of its Antigrapha in 1890, and included therewith a Commentary by George William Speth.

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