Matthew Cooke Manuscript
Thanked be God, our glorious Father, the founder and creator of heaven
and earth, and of all things that therein are, for that he has
vouchsafed, of his glorious Godhead, to make so many things of manifold
virtue for the use of mankind. For he made all things to be subject and
obedient to man. All things eatable of a wholesome nature he ordained
for man's sustenance. And moreover, he hath given to man wit and the
knowledge of divers things and handicrafts, by the which we may labour
in this world, in order to therewith get our livelihood and fashion many
objects, pleasant in the sight of God, to our own ease and profit. To
rehearse all these matters here were too long in the writing or telling,
I will therefore refrain ; but I will nevertheless, tell you some ; for
instance, how and in what manner the Science of Geometry was first
invented, and who were the founders both thereof and of several other
crafts, as is declared in the Bible, and other histories.
How, and in what manner this worthy Science of Geometry took its rise, I
will tell you, as I said before. You must know that there are seven
liberal sciences, from which seven all other sciences and crafts in the
world sprung ; but especially is Geometry the first cause of all the
other sciences, whatsoevor they be.
These seven sciences are as follows:
The first, which is called the foundation of all science, is grammar,
which teacheth to write and speak correctly.
The second is rhetoric, which teaches us to speak elegantly.
The third is dialectic, which teaches us to discern the true from the
false, and it is usually called art or sophistry (logic).
The fourth is arithmetic, which instructs us in the science of numbers,
to reckon, and to make accounts.
The fifth is Geometry, which teaches us all about mensuration, measures
and weights, of all kinds of handicrafts.
The sixth is music, and that teaches the art of singing by notation for
the voice, on the organ, trumpet, and harp, and of all things pertaining
The seventh is astronomy, which teaches us the course of the sun and of
the moon and of the other stars and planets of heaven.
Our intent is to treat chiefly of the first foundation of Geometry and
who were the founders thereof. As I said before, there are seven liberal
sciences, that is to say, seven sciences or crafts that are free in
themselves, the which seven exist only through Geometry. And Geometry
may be described as earth-mensuration, for Geometry is derived from geo,
which is in Greek "earth," and metrona or a measure. Thus is the word
Geometry compounded and signifies the measure of the earth.
Marvel not because I said that all sciences exist only through the
science of Geometry. For there is no art or handicraft wrought by man's
hands that is not wrought by Geometry which is a chief factor (notabulle
cause) thereof. For if a man work with his hands he employs some sort of
tool, and there is no instrument of any material in this world which is
not formed of some sort of earth (ore) and to earth it will return. And
there is no instrument or tool to work with that has not some
proportion, more or less. And proportion is measure, and the instrument
or tool is earth. And Geometry is earth-mensuration therefore I affirm
that all men live by Geometry. For all men here to this world live by
the labour of their hands.
Many more proofs could I give you that Geometry is the science by which
all reasoning men live, but I refrain at this time because the writing
of it were a long process.
And now I will enter further into the matter You must know that among
all the crafts followed by man in this world, Masonry has the greatest
renown end the largest share of this science of Geometry, as is stated
in history, such as the Bible, and the Master of History," and in the
Policronicon a well authenticated (or trustworthy) chronicle, and in the
history called Beda De Imagine Mundi, and Isodorus Ethomolegiarum
Methodius Episcopus & Martiris. And many others say that Masonry is the
chief part of Geometry and so methinks it may well be said, for it was
the first founded, as is stated in the Bible, in the first book of
Genesis and the fourth chapter. And moreover all the learned authors
above cited agree thereto. And some of them affirm it more openly and
plainly, precisely as in Genesis in the Bible.
Before Noah's Flood by direct male descent from Adam in the seventh
generation, there lived a man called Lamech who had two wives, called
Adah and Zillah. By the first wife, Adah, he begat two sons, Jabal and
Jubal. The elder son Jabal was the first man that ever discovered
geometry and masonry, and he made houses, and is called in the Bible the
father of all men who dwell in tents or dwelling houses. And he was
Cain's master mason and governor of the works when he built the city of
Enoch, which was the first city ever made and was built by Cain, Adam's
son, who gave it to his own son Enoch, and give the city the name of his
son and called it Enoch, and now it is known as Ephraim. And at that
place was the Science of Geometry and Masonry first prosecuted and
contrived as a science and as a handicraft. And so we may well say that
it is the first cause and foundation of all crafts and sciences. And
also this man Jabel was called the father of shepherds. The Master of
History says, and Beda De Imagine Mundi and the Policronicon and many
others more say, that he was the first that made partition of lands, in
order that every man might know his own land and labour thereon for
himself. And also he divided flocks of sheep, that every man might know
his own sheep, and so we may say that he was the inventor of that
And his brother Jubal or Tubal was the inventor of music and song, as
Pythagoras states in Polycronicon, and the same says Isodorous. In his
Ethemolegiis in the 6th book he says that he was the first founder of
music and song, and of the organ and trumpet; and he discovered that
science by the sound of the weights of his brother's, Tubal-Cain's,
And of a truth, as the Bible says, that is to say, in the fourth Chapter
of Genesis, Lamech begat by his other wife Zillah a son and a daughter,
and their names Tubal Cain, that was the son, and the daughter was
called Naamah. And according to the Policronicon, some men say that she
was Noah's wife; but whether this be so or not, we will not affirm.
Ye must know that this son Tubal Cain was the founder of the smith's
craft and of other handicrafts dealing with metals, such as iron, brass,
gold and silver as some learned writers say; and his sister Naamah
discovered the craft of weaving for before her time no cloth was woven,
but they span yarn and knit it and made such clothing as they could. And
as this woman Naamah invented the craft of weaving it was called
And these four brethren knew that God would take vengeance for sin,
either by fire or water. And they were much concerned how to save the
sciences they had discovered, and they took counsel together and
exercised all their wits. And they said there were two kinds of stone of
such virtue that the one would not burn, called marble, and the other
named "Lacerus" would not sink in water. And so they devised to write
all the sciences they had found on these two stones, so that if God took
vengeance by fire the marble would not burn, and if by water the other
would not drown, and they besought their elder brother Jabal to make two
pillars of these two stones, that is of marble and of "Lacerus," and to
write on the two pillars all the sciences and crafts which they had
found and he did so. And therefore we may say that he was the wisest in
science, for he first began and carried out their purpose before Noah's
Fortunately knowing of the vengeance that God would send, the brethren
knew not whether it would be by fire or water. They knew by a sort of
prophecy that God would send one or the other, and therefore they wrote
their sciences on the two pillars of stone. And some men say that they
wrote on the stones all the seven sciences, but [this I affirm not]. As
they had it in mind that a vengeance would come, so it befell that God
did send vengeance, and there came such a flood that all the world was
drowned and all men died save only eight persons. These were Noah and
his wife and his three sons and their wives, of which sons all the world
is descended, and they were named in this wise, Shem, Ham and Japhet.
And this flood is called Noah's Flood, for he and his children were
saved therein. And many years after the flood, according to the
chronicle, these two pillars were found, and the chronicle says that a
great clerk, Pythagoras, found the one, and Hermes the philosopher found
the other, and they taught the sciences that they found written thereon.
Every chronicle and history and many other writers and the Bible
especially relate the building or the tower of Babel; and it is written
in the Bible, Genesis, Chap. x how that Ham, Noah's son, begat Nimrod,
who grew a mighty man upon the earth and waxed strong, like unto a
giant. He was a great king and the beginning of his kingdom was the
kingdom of Babilon proper, and Erech and Arend and Calnch and the land
of Shinar. And this same Ham began the tower of Babel and taught his
workmen the Craft of Masonry and he had with him many masons, more than
40,000, and he loved and cherished them well. And it is written in
Polycronicon, and in the Master of History, and in other histories, and
beyond this the Bible witnesses in the same 10th chapter, as it is
written, that Ashur who was of near kindred to Nimrod went forth from
the land of Shinar and built the City of Nineveh and Plateas (sic) and
many more. For it is written "Do terra illa" [&c.]
It is but reasonable that we should plainly say how and in what manner
the Charges of the Mason's Craft were first founded, and who first gave
it the name of Masonry And you must know that it is stated and written
in the Polycronicon and in Methothus Episcopus and Martiris that Ashur
who was a worthy lord of Shinar, sent to Nimrod the king to send him
Masons and workmen of the Craft that they might help him make his city
which he was minded to make. And Nimrod sent him 3000 masons. And as
they were about to depart and go forth, he called them before him and
said to them, "Ye must go to my cousin Ashur to help him build a city,
but see to it, that ye be well governed, and I will give you a Charge
that shall be to your and my profit.
"When you come to that lord, look that you be true to him, even as you
would be to me, labour at your Craft honestly, and take a reasonable
payment for it such as you may deserve. Love each other as though you
were brothers and hold together staunchly. Let him that hath most skill
teach his fellow, and be careful that your conduct amongst yourselves
and towards your lord may be to my credit, that I may have thanks for
sending you and teaching you the Craft." And they received the charge
from him, being their lord and master, and went forth to Ashur and built
the city of Nineveh in the country of Plateas (sic) and other cities
also that are called Calah and Rosen, which is a great city between
Calah and Nineveh. And in this manner the Craft of Masonry was first
instituted and charged as a science.
Elders of Masons before our times had these charges in writing as we
have them now in our Charges of the story of Euclid, and as we have seen
them written both in Latin and in French.
But it is only reasonable that we should tell you how Euclid came to the
knowledge of Geometry, as stated in the Bible and in other histories. In
the XlIth chapter of Genesis it is told how Abraham came to the land of
Canaan and our Lord appeared unto him and said, "I will give this land
to thy seed." But a great famine reigned in that land and Abraham took
Sarah, his wife, with him and made a journey into Egypt to abide there
whilst the famine lasted. And Abraham, so says the chronicle, was as a
wise man and a learned. And he knew all the seven sciences and taught
the Egyptians the science of Geometry. And this worthy clerk Euclid was
his pupil and learned of him. And he first gave it the name of Geometry
; although it was practised before his time, it had not acquired the
name of Geometry. But it is said by Isodoras in the 5th Book and first
Chapter of Ethomolegiarum that Euclid was one of the first founders of
Geometry and gave it that name.
For in his time, the river of Egypt which is called the Nile so
overflowed the land that no man could dwell therein. Then the worthy
clerk Euclid taught them to make great walls and ditches to keep back
the water, and by Geometry he measured the land and parcelled it out
into sections and caused every man to enclose his own portion with walls
and ditches and thus it became a country abounding in all kinds of
produce, and of young people and of men and women : so that the youthful
population increased so much as to render earning a livelihood
difficult. And the lords of the country drew together and took counsel
how they might help their children who had no competent livelihood in
order to provide for themselves and their children, for they had so
many. And at the council amongst them was this worthy Clerk Euclid and
when he saw that all of them could devise no remedy in the matter be
said to them "Lay your orders upon your sons and I will teach them a
science by which they may live as gentlemen, under the condition that
they shall be sworn to me to uphold the regulations that I shall lay
upon them." And both they and the king of the country and all the lords
agreed thereto with one consent.
It is but reasonable that every man should agree to that which tended to
profit himself ; and so they took their sons to Euclid to be ruled by
him and he taught them the Craft of Masonry and gave it the name of
Geometry on account of the parcelling out of the ground which he had
taught the people at the time of making the walls and ditches, as
aforesaid, to keep out the water. And Isodoris says in Ethomologies that
Euclid called the craft Geometry.
And there this worthy clerk Euclid gave it a name and taught it to the
lord's sons of that land whom he had as pupils.
And he gave them a charge. That they should call each other Fellow and
no otherwise, they being all of one craft and of the same gentle birth,
lords' sons. And also that the most skilful should be governor of the
work and should be called master ; and other charges besides, which are
written in the Book of Charges. And so they worked for the lords of the
land and built cities and towns, castles and temples and lords' palaces.
During the time that the childen of Israel dwelt in Egypt they learned
the craft of Masonry. And after they were driven out of Egypt they came
into the promised land, which is now called Jerusalem, and they occupied
that land and the charges were observed there. And [at] the making of
Solomon's Temple which king David began, King David loved masons well,
and gave them [wages] nearly as they are now. And at the making of the
Temple in Solomon's time, as stated in the Bible in the third book of
Kings and the fifth chapter, Solomon held four score thousand masons at
work. And the son of the king of Tyre was his master mason. And in other
chronicles and in old books of masonry, it is said that Solomon
confirmed the charges that David his father had given to masons. And
Solomon himself taught them their usages differing but slightly from the
customs now in use.
And from thence this worthy science was brought into France and into
many other regions.
At one time there was a worthy king in France called Carolus Secondus,
that is to say Charles the Second. And this Charles was elected king of
France by the grace of God and also by right of descent. And some men
say he was elected by good fortune, which is false as by the chronicles
he was of the blood royal. And this same king Charles was a mason before
he became king. And after he was king he loved masons and cherished them
and gave them charges and usages of his devising, of which some are yet
in force in France ; and he ordained that they should have an assembly
once a year and come and speak together in order that the masters and
follows might regulate all things amiss.
And soon after that came St. Adhabelle into England and he converted St.
Alban to Christianity. And St. Alban loved well masons and he was the
first to give them charges and customs in England, And he ordained
[wages] adequate to pay for their toil.
And after that there was a worthy king in England, called Athelstan, and
his youngest son loved well the science of Geometry ; and he knew well,
as well as the masons themselves, that their handicraft was the practice
of the science of Geometry. Therefore he drew to their councils (or took
counsel, or lessons, of them) and learned the practical part of that
science in addition to his theoretical (or book) knowledge. For of the
speculative part he was a master. And he loved well masonry and masons.
And he became a mason himself. And he give them charges and usages such
as are now customary in England and in other countries. And he ordained
that they should have reasonable pay. And he purchased a free patent of
the king that they might hold an assembly at what time they thought
reasonable and come together to consult. Of the which charges, usages
and assembly it is written and taught in our Book of Charges; wherefore
I leave it for the present.
Good men! for this cause and in this way Masonry first arose. It befell,
once upon a time, that great lords had so many free begotten children
that their possessions were not extensive enough to provide for their
future. Therefore they took counsel how to provide for their children
and find them all honest livelihood. And they sent for wise masters of
the worthy science of Geometry, that through their wisdom they might
provide them with some honest living. Then one of them that was called
Euclid a most subtil and wise inventor regulated [that science] and art
and called it Masonry. And so in this art of his he honestly taught the
children of great lords according to the desire of the fathers and the
free consent of their children. And having taught them with great care
for a certain time they were not all alike capable of exercising the
said art, wherefore the said master Euclid ordained that those that
surpassed the others in skill should be honoured above the others. And [comman]ded
to call the more skilful "master" and for [him] to instruct the less
skilful. The which masters were called masters of nobility, of knowledge
and skill in that art. Nevertheless they commanded that they that were
of less knowledge should not be called servants or subjects, but
fellows, on account of the nobility of their gentle blood. In this
manner was the aforesaid art begun in the land of Egypt by the aforesaid
master Euclid and so it spread from country to country and from kingdom
Many years after, in the time of king Athelstan, sometime king of
England, by common assent of his Council and other great lords of the
land on account of great defects found amongst masons, a certain rule
was ordained for them.
Once a year or every three years as might appear needful to the king and
great lords of the land and all the comunity, congregations should be
called by the masters from country to country and from province to
province of all masters, masons and fellows in the said art. And at such
congregations those that are made masters shall be examined in the
articles hereafter written and be ransacked whether they be able and
skilful in order to serve the lords to their profit and to the honour of
the aforesaid art. And moreover they shall be charged to well and truly
expend the goods of their lords, as well of the lowest as of the highest
; for those are their lords for the time being of whom they take their
pay in recompense of their service and toil.
The first article is this. That every master of this art should be wise,
and true to the lord who employs him, expending his goods carefully as
he would his own were expended; and not give more pay to any mason than
he knows him to have earned, according to the dearth (or scarcity and
therefore price) of corn and victuals in the country and this without
favouritism, for every man is to be rewarded according to his work.
The Second article is this. That every master of the art shall be warned
beforehand to come to his congregation in order that he may duly come,
there, unless he may [be] excused for some cause or other. But if he be
found [i.e., accused of being] rebellious at such congregation, or at
fault in any way to his employer's harm or the reproach of this art, he
shall not be excused unless he be in peril of death. And though he be in
peril of death, yet must, he give notice of his illness, to the master
who is the president of the gathering.
The [third] article is this. That no master take no apprentice for a
shorter term than seven years at least, for the reason that such as have
been bound a shorter time can not adequately learn their art, nor be
able to truly serve their employer and earn the pay that a mason should.
The fourth article is this. That no master shall for any reward take as
an apprentice a bondsman born, because his lord to whom he is a bondsman
might take him, as he is entitled to, from his art and carry him away
with him from out the Lodge, or out of the place he is in. And because
his fellows peradventure might help him and take his part, and thence
manslaughter might arise ; therefore it is forbidden. And there is
another reason ; because his art was begun by the freely begotten
children of great lords, as aforesaid.
The fifth article is this. That no master shall pay more to his
apprentice during the time of his apprenticeship, whatever profit he may
take thereby, than he well knows him to have deserved of the lord that
employs him ; and not even quite so much, in order that the lord of the
works where he is taught may have some profit by his being taught there.
The sixth article is this. That no master from covetousness or for gain
shall accept an apprentice that is unprofitable ; that is, having any
maim (or defect) by reason of which he is incapable of doing a mason's
The seventh article is this. That no master shall knowingly help or
cause to be maintained and sustained any common nightwalker robber by
which nightwalking they may be rendered incapable of doing a fair day's
work and toil: a condition of things by which their fellows might be
The eighth article is this. Should it befall that a perfect and skilful
mason come and apply for work and find one working who is incompetent
and unskilful, the master of the place shall discharge the incompetent
and engage the skilful one, to the advantage of the employer.
The ninth article is this. That no master shall supplant another. For it
is said in the art of masonry that no man can so well complete a work to
the advantage of the lord, begun by another as he who began it intending
to end it in accordance with his own plans, or [he] to whom he shows his
These regulation following were made by the lords (employers) and
masters of divers provinces and divers congregations of masonry.
[First point] To wit : whosoever desires to become a mason, it behoves
him before all things to [love] God and the holy Church and all the
Saints ; and his master and follows as his own brothers.
The second point. He must give a fair day's work for his pay.
The third [point]. He shall hele the counsel or his fellows in lodge and
in chamber, and wherever masons meet.
The fourth point. He shall be no traitor to the art and do it no harm
nor conform to any enactments against the art nor against the members
thereof : but he shall maintain it in all honour to the best of his
The fifth point. When he receives his pay he shall take it without
murmuring, as may be arranged at the time by the master; and he shall
fulfil the agreement regarding the hours of work and rest, as ordained
and set by the master.
The sixth point. In case of disagreement between him and his fellows, he
shall unquestioningly obey the master and be silent thereon at the
bidding of his master, or of his master's warden in his master's
absence, until the next following holiday and shall then settle the
matter according to the verdict of his fellows; and not upon a work-day
because of the hindrance to the work and to the lord's interests.
The seventh point. He shall not covet the wife nor the daughter of his
master or of his fellows unless it be in marriage neither shall he hold
concubines, on account of the discord this might create amongst them.
The eighth point. Should it befall him to be his master's warden, he
shall be a true mediator between his master and his fellows : and he
shall be active in his master's absence to the honour of his master and
the profit of the lord who employs him.
The ninth point. If he be more wise and skilful than his fellow working
with him in the Lodge or in any other place, and he perceive that for
want of skill, he is about to spoil the stone upon which he is working
and can teach him to improve the stone, he shall instruct and help him ;
so that love may increase the more amongst them and the work of his
employer be not lost.
When the master and fellows, being forewarned are come to such
congregations, the sheriff of the country or the mayor of the city or
alderman of the town in which the congregation is held, shall if need
be, be fellow and associate of the master of the congregation, to help
him against disobedient members to maintain the rights of the realm.
And at the commencement of the proceedings, new men who have never been
charged before are to be charged in this manner. Ye shall never be
thieves nor thieves' maintainers, and shall do a fair day's work and
toil for your pay that you take of the lord, and shall render true
accounts to your fellows in all matters which should be accounted for to
them, and love them as yourselves. And ye shall be true to the king of
England and to the realm : and that ye keep with all your might and
[power] all the aforesaid articles.
After that an enquiry shall be held whether any master or fellow
summoned to the meeting, have broken any of the beforesaid articles,
which, if they have done, it shall be then and there adjudicated upon.
Therefore be it known; if any master or fellow being forewarned to come
to the congregation, be contumacious and appear not ; or having
trespassed against any of the aforesaid articles shall be convicted ; he
shall forswear his masonry and shall no longer exercise the craft. And
if he presume so to do, the sheriff of the country in which he may be
found at work shall put him in prison and take all his goods for the use
of the king, until his (the king's) grace be granted and showed him.
For this cause chiefly were these congregations ordained ; that the
lowest as well as the highest might be well and truly served in the
aforesaid art throughout all the kingdom of England.
Amen, so mote it be.