Matthew Cooke Manuscript

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The Matthew Cooke Manuscript (1450s) 
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.— Excerpted from Masonic manuscripts on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Published by R. Spencer, London, 1861. Edited by Mr. Matthew Cooke

Thanked be God, our glorius father and founder and former of Heaven and of earth and of all things that in him is, that he would vouchsafe, of his glorious God-head, for to make so many things of divers virtue for mankind; for He made all things for to be obedient and subject to man, for all things that are comestible of wholsome nature he ordained it for mans sustenance. And also he hath given to man wits and cunning of divers things, and crafts, by the which we may travel in this world to get with our living to make divers things to God's pleasure, and also for our ease and profit. The which things if I should rehearse them it were too long to tell, and to write. Wherefore I will leave (them), but I shall shew you some, that is to say how, and in what wise, the science of Geometry first began, and who were the founders thereof, and of other crafts more, as it is noted in the Bible and in other stories.

How and in what manner that this worthy science of geometry began, I will tell you, as I said before. Ye shall understand that there be 7 liberal sciences, by the which 7 all sciences and crafts, in the world, were first found, and in especially for he is causer of all, that is to say the science of geometry of all other that be, the which 7 sciences are called thus.

  • As for the first, that is called [the] fundament of science, his name is grammar, he teacheth a man rightfully to speak and to write truly.
  • The second is rhetoric, and he teacheth a man to speak formably and fair.
  • The third is dialecticus, and that science teacheth a man to discern the truth from the false, and commonly it is called art or sophistry.
  • The fourth is called arithmetic, the which teacheth a man the craft of numbers, for to reckon and to make account of all things.
  • The fifth [is] geometry, the which teacheth a man all the metcon, and measures, and ponderacion, of weights of all mans craft.
  • The 6th is music, that teacheth a man the craft of song, in notes of voice and organ, and trumpet, and harp, and of all others pertaining to them.
  • The 7th is astronomy, that teacheth man the course of the sun, and of the moon, and of other stars and planets of heaven.

Our intent is principally to treat of [the] first foundation of the worthy science of geometry, and we were the foundes thereof, as I said before. There are 7 liberal sciences, that is to say, 7 sciences, or crafts, that are free in themselves, the which 7 live only by geometry. And geometry is as much to say as the measure of the earth, "Et sic dicitur a geo ge quin R tera latin et metron quod est mensura. Una Geometria in mensura terra vel terrarum," that is to say in English, that gemetria is, I said, of geo that is in gru, earth, and metron, that is to say measure, and thus is this name of Gemetria comounded and is said [to be] the measure of the earth.

Marvel ye not that I said, that all sciences live all only, by the science of geometry, for there is none [of them] artificial. No handicraft that is wrought by mans hand but it is wrought by geometry, and a notable cause, for if a man work with his hands he worketh with some manner [of] tool, and there is none instrument, of material things, in this world but it come[s] of the kind of earth, and to earth it will turn again, and there is none instrument, that is to say a tool to work with, but it hath some proportion, more or less. And proportion is measure, the tool, or the instrument, is earth. And geometry is said [to be] the measure of [the] earth, Wherefore, I may say that men live all by geometry, for all men here in this world live by the labour of their hands.

Many more probations I will tell you, why that geometry is the science that all reasonable men live by, but I leave it, at this time, for the long process of writing. And now I will proceed further on my matter. Ye shall understand that among all the crafts of the world, of man's craft, Masonry hath the most notability and most part of this science, geometry, as it is noted and said in history, as in the Bible, and in the master of history. And in [the] Policronicon a chronicle printed, and in the histories that is named Bede. "De Imagine Mundi;" et Isodorus "Ethomolegiarum." Methodius, Episcopus et Martiris, and others, many more, said that masonry is principal of geometry, as me thinketh it may well be said, for it was the first that was founded, as it is noted in the Bible, in the first book of Genesis in the 4th chapter; and also all the doctors aforesaid accordeth thereto, and some of them saith it more openly, and plainly, right as it saith in the Bible, Genesis.

Adam's line lineal son, descending down the 7th age of Adam before Noah's flood, there was a man that was named Lamech the which had 2 wives, the one hight Adah, and another Zillah; by the first wife, that hight Adah, he begat 2 sons that one hight Jabal, and the other hight Jubal. The elder son, Jabal, he was the first man that ever found geometry and Masonry, and he made houses, and [is] named in the Bible "Pater habitancium in tentoris atque pastorum," that is to say, father of men dwelling in tents, that is, dwelling houses. And he was Cain's master mason, and governor of all his works, when he made the city of Enock, that was the first city; That was the first city that ever was made, and that made Cain, Adam's son, and gave to his own son Enock, and gave the city the name of his son, and called it Enock. And now it is called Ephraim, and there was [the] science of Geometry, and masonry, first occupied, and contrenid, for a science and for a craft, and so we may say that it was [the] cause and foundation of all crafts, and sciences, and also this man, Jaball, was called "pater pastorum."

The master of stories saith, and Bede, De Imagine Mundi, [the] Policronicon, and other more say that he was the first that made depercession of land, that every man might know his own ground, and labour thereon, as for his own. And also he departed flocks of sheep, that every man might know his own sheep, and so we may say that he was the first founder of that science. And his brother Jubal, or Tubal, was [the] founder of music and song, as Pythagoras saith in [the] Policronicon and the same saith Isodore in his Ethemologies, in the 6th book, there he saith that he was the first founder of music, and song, and of organ and trumpet, and he found that science by the sound of ponderation of his brother's hammers, that was Tubal Cain.

Soothly as the Bible saith in the chapter, that is to say, the 4th of Genesis, that he saith Lamech begot upon his other wife, that hight Zillah, a son and a daughter, the names of them were called Tubal Cain, that was the son, and his daughter [was] called Naamah, and as the Policronicon saith, that some men say that she was Noah's wife: whether it be so, or no, we affirm it not.

Ye shall understand that this son Tubal Cain was [the] founder of smiths' craft, and of other crafts of metal, that is to say, of iron, of brass, of gold, and of silver, as some doctors say, and his sister Naamah was finder of weavers-craft, for before that time was no cloth woven, but they did spin yarn and knit it, and made them such clothing as they could, but as the woman Naamah found the craft of weaving, and therefore it was called women's craft, and these 3 brethren, aforesaid, had knowledge that God would take vengeance for sin, either by fire, or water, and they had greater care how they might do to save the sciences that they [had] found, and they took their counsel together and, by all their witts, they said that [there] were 2 manner of stone[s] of such virtue that the one would never burn, and that stone is called marble, and that the other stone that will not sink in water and that stone is named latres, and so they devised to write all the sciences that they had found in these 2 stones, [so that] if that God would take vengeance, by fire, that the marble should not burn. And if God sent vengeance, by water, that the other should not drown, and so they prayed their elder brother Jabal that [he] would make 2 pillars of these 2 stones, that is to say of marble and of latres, and that he would write in the 2 pillars all the science[s], and crafts, that all they had found, and so he did and, therefore, we may say that he was most cunning in science, for he first began and performed the before Noah's flood.

Kindly knowing of that vengeance, that God would send, whether it should be by fire, or by water, the brethren had it not by a manner of a prophecy, they wist that God would send one thereof, and therefore they wrote their science[s] in the 2 pillars of stone, and some men say that they wrote in the stones all the 7 science[s], but as they [had] in their mind[s] that a vengeance should come. And so it was that God sent vengeance so that there came such a flood that all the world was drowned, and all men were dead therein, save 8 persons, And that was Noah, and his wife, and his three sons, and their wives, of which 3 sons all the world came of, and their names were named in this manner, Shem, Ham, and Japhet. And this flood was called Noah's flood, for he, and his children, were saved therein. And after this flood many years, as the chronicle telleth, these 2 pillars were found, and as the Pilicronicon saith, that a great clerk that [was] called Pythagoras found that one, and Hermes, the philosopher, found that other, and they taught forth the sciences that they found therein written.

Every chronicle, and history, and many other clerks, and the Bible in principal, witnesses of the making of the tower of Babel, and it is written in the Bible, Genesis Chapter x., how that Ham, Noah's son begot Nimrod, and he waxed a mighty man upon the earth, and he waxed a strong man, like a giant, and he was a great king. And the beginning of his kingdom was [that of the] true kingdom of Babylon, and Arach, and Archad, and Calan, and the land of Sennare. And this same Nimrod began the tower of Babylon…and he taught to his workmen the craft of measures, and he had with him many masons, more than 40 thousand. And he loved and cherished them well. And it is written in [the] Policronicon, and in the master of stories, and in other stories more, and this in part witnesseth [the] Bible, in the same x. chapter [of Genesis,] where he saith that Asur, that was nigh [of] kin to Nimrod, [and] went out of the land of Senare and he built the city [of] Nineveh, and Plateas, and other more, this he saith "de tra illa et de Sennare egressus est Asur, et edificavit Nineven et Plateas civitatum et Cale et Jesu quoque, inter Nineven et hoec est Civitas magna."

Reason would that we should tell openly how, and in what manner, that the charges of mason-craft was first founded and who gave first the name of it of masonry. And ye shall know well that it [is] told and written in [the] Policronicon and in Methodius episcopus and Martyrus that Asure, that was a worthy lord of Sennare, sent to Nimrod the king, to send him masons and workmen of craft that might help him to make his city that he was in will to make. And Nimrod sent him 30 hundred of masons. And when they should go and [he should] send them forth he called them before him and said to them—"Ye must go to my cousin Asur, to help him to build a city; but look [to it] that ye be well governed, and I shall give you a charge profitable for you and me.

When ye come to that lord look that ye be true to him like as ye would be to me, and truly do your labour and craft, and take reasonable your meed therefore as ye may deserve, and also that ye love together as ye were brethren, and hold together truly; and he that hath most cunning teach it to his fellow; and look ye govern you against your lord and among yourselves, that I may have worship and thanks for my sending, and teaching, you the craft." and they received the charge of him that was their master and their lord, and went forth to Asur, and built the city of Ninevah, in the country of Plateas, and other cities more that men call Cale and Jesen, that is a great city between Cale and Nineveh. And in this manner the craft of masonry was first preferred and charged it for a science.

Elders that were before us, of masons, had these charges written to them as we have now in our charges of the story of Euclid, as we have seen them written in Latin and in French both; but how that Euclid came to [the knowledge of] geometry reason would we should tell you as it is noted in the Bible and in other stories. In the twelfth chapter of Genesis he telleth how that Abraham came to the Land of Canaan, and our Lord appeared to him and said, I shall give this land to thy seed; but there fell a great hunger in that land, and Abraham took Sarah, his wife, with him and went into Egypt in pilgrimage, [and] while the hunger [en]dured he would bide there. And Abraham, as the chronicle saith, he was a wise man and a great clerk, and couthe all the 7 science[s] and taught the Egyptians the science of geometry. And thid worthy clerk, Euclid, was his clerk and learned of him. And he gave the first name of geometry, all be that it was occupied before it had no name of geometry. But it is said of Isodour, Ethemologiarum, in the 5th booke Ethemolegiarum, capitolo primo, saith that Euclid was one of the first founders of geometry, and he gave it [that] name, for in his time that was a water in that land of Egypt that is called [the] Nile, and it flowed so far into the land that men might not dwell therein.

Then this worthy clerk, Euclid, taught them to make great walls and ditches to holde out the water; and he, by geometry, measured the land, and departed it in divers parts, and made every man close his own part with walls and ditches, and then it became a plenteous country of all manner of fruit and of young people, of men and women, that there was so much people of young fruit that they could not well live. And the lords of the country drew them [selves] together and made a council how they might help their children that had no livelihood, competent and able, for to find themselves and their children for thy had so many. And among them all in council was this worthy clerk Euclid, and when he saw that all they could not bring about this matter he said to them-"Will ye take your sons in governance, and I shall teach them such science that they shall live thereby gentlemanly, under condition that ye will be sworn to me to perform the governance that I shall set you to and them both." And the king of the land and all the lords, by one assent, granted thereto.

Reason would that every man would grant to that thing that were profitable to himself, and they took their sons to Euclid to govern them at his own will, and he taught to them the craft, Masonry, and gave it the name of geometry, because of the parting of the ground that he had taught to the people, in the time of the making of the walls and ditches aforesaid, to close out the water, and Isodore saith, in his Ethemologies, that Euclid calleth the craft geometry; and there was this worthy clerk gave it name, and taught it the lords' sons of the land that he had in his teaching. And he gave them a charge that they should call here each other fellow, and no otherwise, because that they were all of one craft, and of one gentle birth born, and lords' sons. And also he that were most of cunning should be governor of the work, and should be called master, and other charges more that are written in the book of charges. And so they wrought with lords of the land, and made cities and towns, castles and temples, and lords' palaces.

What time that the childrewn of Israel dwelt in Egypt they learned the craft of masonry. And afterward, [when] they were driven out of Egypt, they came into the land of behest, and is now called Jerusalem, and it was occupied and charges there held. And the making of Solomon's temple that king David began. (King David loved well masons, and he gave them right nigh as they be now.) And at the making of the temple in Solomon's time as it is said in te Bible, in the 3rd book of Regum in tercio Regum capitolo quinto, that Solomon had 4 score thousand masons at his work. And the king's son, of Tyre, was his master Mason. And [in] other chronicles it is said, and in old books of masonry, that Solomon confirmed the charges that David, his father, had given to masons. And Solomon himself taught them there manners [with] but little difference from the manners that now are used. And from thence this worthy science was brought into France and into many other regions.

Sometime there was a worthy king in France that was called Carolus secundus, that is to say, Charles the Second, and this Charles was elected king of France, by the grace of God and by lineage also. And some men say that he was elected by fortune, the which is false, as by [the] chronicle he was of the king's blood royal. And this same King, Charles, was a mason before that he was king, and after that he was king he loved Masons and cherished them, and gave them charges and manners at his device, [of] the which some are yet used in France; and he ordained that they should have [an] assembly once in the year, and come and speak together, and for to be ruled by masters and fellows of all things amiss. And soon after that came Saint Adhabell into England, and converted Saint Alban to Christianity. And Saint Alban loved well masons, and he gave them first their charges and manners first in England. And he ordained convenient [times] to pay for the travail. And after that was a worthy king in England that was called Athelstan, and his youngest son loved well the science of geometry, and he wist well that hand-craft had the practice of the science of geometry so well as masons, wherefore he drew him to council and learned [the] practice of that science to his speculative, for of speculative he was a master, and he loved well masonry and masons. And he became a mason himself, and he gave them charges and names as it is now used in England, and in other countries. And he ordained that they shouuld have reasonable pay and purchased a free patent of the king that they should make [an] assembly when they saw a reasonable time and come together to their councillors of which charges, manners, and assembly, as it is written and taught in the book of our charges, wherefore I leave it at this time.

Good men for this cause and this manner Masonry took [its] first beginning. It befel sometime[s] that great lords had not so great possessions that they might not advance their free begotten children, for thet had so many, therefore they took counsel how they might their children advance and ordain them honestly to live. And [they] sent after wise masters of the worthy science of geometry that they, through their wisdom, should ordain them some honest living. Then one of them, that had the name which was called Englet, that was most subtle and wise founder, ordained an art and called it Masonry, and so with his art, honestly, he taught the children of great lords, by the prayer of the fathers and the freewill of their children, the which when they [were] taught with high care, by a certain time, they were not all alike able for to take of the [a]foresaid art wherefore the [a]foresaid master, Englet, ordained [that] they [who] were passing of cunning should be passing honured, and did to call the cunninger master for to inform the less of cunning masters, of the which were called masters, of nobility of wit and cunning of that art. Nevertheless they commanded that they that were less of wit should not be called servant, nor subject, but fellow, for nobility of their gentle blood. In this manner was the [a]foresaid art begun in the land of Egypt, by the [a]foresaid master Englet, and so it went from land to land, and from kingdom to kingdom. After that, many years, in the time of King Athelstan, which was some time king of England, by his councillors, and other greater lords of the land, by common assent, for great default found among masons, they ordained a certain rule amongst them: one time of the year, or in 3 years as need were to the king and great lords of the land, and all the comonalty, from province to province, and from country to country, congregations should be made, by masters, of all masters, Masons, and fellows in the [a]foresaid art, and so, at such congregations, they that be made masters should be examined, of the articles after written, and be ransacked whether they be able and cunning to the profit of the lords [having] them to serve and to the honour of the [a]foresaid art. And, moreover, they should receive their charge that they should well and truly dispend the goods of their lords, as well the lowest as the highest, for they be their lords, for the time, of whom they take their pay for their service and for their travail.

  • The first Article is this,—That every master of this art should be wise and true to the lord that he serveth, dispending his goods truly as he would his own were dispensed, and not give more pay to no mason than he wot he may deserve, after the dearth of corn and victual in the country, no favour withstanding, for every man to be rewarded after his travail.
  • The second Article is this,—That every master of this art should be warned, before, to come to his congregation, that they come duly, but if they may [be] excused by some manner [of] cause. But, nevertheless, if they be found rebel[lious] at such congregations, or faulty in any manner [of] harm of their lords, and reproof of this art, they should not be excused in no manner [with]out taking peril of death, and though they be in peril of death, they shall warn the master that is principal of the gathering of his decease.
  • The [third] Article is this,—That no master take no [ap]prentice for [a] less term than 7 year[s] at the least, because such as be within [a] less term may not, profitably, come to his art nor able to serve, truly, his lord [and] to take as a mason should take.
  • The 4th Article is this,—That no master, for no profit, take no [ap]prentice, for to be learned, that is born of bond blood, for, because of his lord, to whom he is bond, will take him as he well may, from his art and lead him, with him, out of his lodge, or out of his place, that he worketh in, for his fellows, peradventure, would help him and debate for him, and thereof manslaughter might [a]rise, it is forbid[den.] And also for another cause of his art, it took beginning of great lords' children, freely begotten, as it is said before.
  • The 5th Article is this,—That no master give more to his [ap]prentice in time of his [ap]prenticehood, for no profit to be take[n], than he note[s] well he may deserve of the lord that he serveth, nor not so much that the lord, of the place that he is taught in, may have some profit of his teaching.
  • The 6th Article is this,—That no master for no coveteousness, nor profit, take no [ap]prentice to teach that is imperfect, that is to say, having any maim for the which he may not truly work as he ought for to do.
  • The 7th Article is this,—That no master be found wittingly, or help or procure. to be [a] maintainer and sustainer [of] any common night walker to rob, by the which manner of nightwalking they may not fulfil their day's work and travail, [and] through the condition their fellows might be made wroth.
  • The 8th Article is this,—That if it befal that any mason that be perfect, and cunning, come for to seek work and find an imperfect and uncunning working, the master of the place shall receive the perfect, and do away the imperfect, to the profit of his lord.
  • The 9th Article is this,—That no master shall supplant another for it is said, in the art of masonry, that no man should make end so well of work begun by another, to the profit of his lord, as he [that] began it, for to end it by his matters, or to whom he sheweth his matters.

This council is made by divers lords and masters of divers provinces and divers congregations of masonry and it is, to wit, that who that coveteth for to come to the state of the [a]foresaid art

  • it behoveth them first, principally, to God and holy church, and all-halows, and his master and his fellows as his own brethren.
  • The second Point,—He must fulfil his day's work truly that he taketh for his pay.
  • The 3rd [Point],—That he can hele the counsel of his fellows in lodge, and in chamber, and in every place there as Masons be.
  • The 4th Point,—That he be no deceiver of the [a]foresaid art, nor do no prejudice, nor sustain no articles, against the art, nor against none of the art, but he shall sustain it in all honour, inasmuch as he may.
  • The 5th Point,—When he shall take his pay, that he take it meekly, as the time is ordained by the master to be done, and that he fulfil the acceptations of travail, and of rest, ordained and set by the master.
  • The 6th Point,—If any discord shall be between him and his fellows he shall obey him meekly, and be still at the bidding of his master, or of the warden of his master, in his master's absence, to the holy-day following, and that he accord then at the disposition of his fellows, anot upon the workday for letting of their work and profit of his lord.
  • The 7th Point,—That he covet not the wife, not the daughter, of his masters, neither of his fellows, but if it be in marriage, nor hold concubines, for discord that might fall amongst them.
  • The 8th Point,—If it befal him for to be warden under his master, that he be true mean between his master and his fellows, and that he be busy in the absence of his master to the honour of his master and profit of the lord that he serveth.
  • The 9th Point,—If he be wiser, and subtler than his fellow working with him in his lodge, or any other place, and he perceive it that he should leave the stone that he worketh upon, for default of cunning, and can teach him and amend the stone, he shall inform him and help him, that the more love may increase among them, and that the work of the lord be not lost.

When the master and the fellows be forewarned [and] are come to such congregations, if need be, the Sheriff of the Country, or the Mayor of the City, or Alderman of the Town, in which the congregations is holden, shall be fellow, and [as] sociate, to the master of the congregation, in help of him, against rebels and [for the] up-bearing the right of the realm. At the first beginning new men, that never were charged before, be charged in this manner,—That [they] should never be thieves, nor thieves' maintainers, and that [they] should truly fulfil their day's work, and travail, for their pay that they shall take of their lord, and [a] true account give to their fellows, in things that be to be accounted of them, and to hear, and them love as themselves. And they shall be true to the King of England, and to the realm, and that they keep, with all their might, and all the Articles aforesaid. After that it shall be enquired if any master, or fellow, that is warned, have broke[n] any Article beforesaid, the which, if they have done, it shall be determined there. Therefore, it is to wit, if any master, or fellow, that is warned before to come to such congregations and be rebell[ious], and will not come, or else have trespassed against any Article beforesaid, if it may be proved, he shall forswear his Masonry and shall no more use his craft; the which, if he presume for to do, the Sheriff of the Country, in which he may be found working, he shall [im]prison him and take all his goods into the king's hand till his grace be granted him and shewed. For this cause, principally, where these congregations ordained that as well the lowest, as the highest, should be well and truly served in his art, beforesaid, throughout all the kingdom of England. Amen: So Mote it be.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.