This celebrated manuscript is now, and has long been, in the possession of the Lodge of Antiquity, at London. It is stated in the subscription to have been written, in 1686, by, "Robert Padgett, Clearke to the Worshipful Society of the Freemasons of the city of London." The whole manuscript was first published by W. J. Hughan in his Old Charges of British Freemasons on page 64, but a part had been previously inserted by Preston in his Illustrations (see book ii, section vi, pages 81-3, 1812 edition).
Here we have evidence of a curious tendency to alter or interpolate passages in old documents whenever it was required to confirm a preconceived theory.
Thus, Preston had intimated that there was before 1717 an Installation Ceremony for newly elected Masters of Lodges, a claim of doubtful worth. He inserts what he calls "the ancient Charges that were used on this occasion," taken from the manuscript of the Lodge of Antiquity,. To confirm the statement, that they were used for this purpose, he comes to the conclusion of the manuscript in the following words:
"These be all the charges and covenants that ought to be read at the installment of Master, or making of a Freemason or Freemasons." The words in italics are not to be found in the original manuscript. Brother E. Jackson Barron had an exact transcript made of this manuscript, which he carefully collated, and which was published by Brother Hughan. Brother Barron gives the following description of the document:
"The manuscript copy of the Charges of Freemasons is on a roll of parchment nine feet long by eleven inches wide, the roll being formed of four pieces of parchment glued together; and some few years ago it was partially mounted (but not very skillfully) on a backing of parchment for its better preservation.
"The Rolls are headed by an engraving of the Royal Arms, after the fashion usual in deeds of the period; the date of the engraving in this case being fixed by the initials at the top, 1. 2. R. "Under this engraving are emblazoned in separate shields the Arms of the city of London, which are too well known to require description, and the Arms of the Masons Company of London, Sable on a chevron between three castles argent, a pair of compasses of the first surrounded by appropriate mantling.
"The writing is a good specimen of the ordinary law writing of the times, interspersed with words in text. There is a margin of about an inch on the left a side, which is marked by a continuous double red ink line throughout, and there are similar double lines down both edges of the parchment. The letter U is used throughout the manuscript for V, with but two or three exceptions" (see Hughan's Old Charges, 1872, page 14).
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