The Lansdowne Manuscript

This version of the Old Charges is of very early date, about the middle or latter half of the sixteenth century, as these Free Masons Orders and Constitutions are believed to have been part of the collection made by Lord Burghley, Secretary of State in the time of Edward VI, who died 1598 A.D.

Brother Gould, in his History (volume i, page 61), says: The Manuscript is contained on the inner side of three sheets and a half of stout paper, eleven by fifteen inches, making in all seven folios, many of the principal words being in large letters of an ornamental character.

Sims, Manuscript Department of the British Museum, does not consider these ” Orders” ever formed a roll, though there are indications of the sheets having been stitched together at the top, and paper or vellum was used for additional protection. It has evidently “seen service.”

It was published in Freemasons Magazine, February 24, 1858, and Hughan’s Old Charges (page 31), and since in facsimile reproduction by the Quatuor Coronati Lodge.

The catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts-which consisted of twelve hundred and forty-five volumes, bought by the English Parliament, in 1807, for £4,925 has the following note on the contents of this document: “No. 48. A very foolish legendary account of the origin of the Order of Freemasonry” in the handwriting, it is said, of Sir Henry Ellis.

– Source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry