Chapter 20

The Sloane No.3848 Manuscript (1646)


Of the more than a hundred Old Charges currently known, many are strangely alike and have such similarities in their drafting and formulation that they were obviously - for a good or bad result - copied from each other.

The Sloane document, which we reproduce in its entirety, is named after one of its first owners, Sir Hans Sloane, physician and collector (1).

The document - The Sloane 3848 Manuscript, the first of a series of three papers dated 1646 and 1700, seems to be a faithful copy of the York Manuscript (1600), itself very close to the Grand Lodge No. 1 Manuscript (1583).

Its interest may seem limited, if we could not note, as did in his time Robert Freke Gould, the eminent English historian of the nineteenth century, in his Masonic History of Freemasonry (1887), that the transcriber Edward Sankey put as its date: October 16, 1646 – the day of the initiation of Elias Ashmole, in the Lodge of Warrington.

Another particular fact has to be noticed: Edward Sankey was the son of Richard Sankey, a local landowner, who, according to Ashmole’s Diary attended the ceremony. 

So nothing prevents us from thinking that the Sloane Manuscript served as Book of Charges for the instruction and the oath of submission of the famous antiquary...

Modern transcription from Old English.

The Text

THE might of the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of the glorious Son; through the goodness of the Holy Ghost; yet being three persons in one God, etc. be with us at our beginning; and give us grace so to govern us in our lives; that we may come to His Life that never shall have ending.

Good Brethren and Fellows our purpose is to tell you, how and in what manner this Craft of Masonry was begun, and afterwards founded by worthy Kings and Princes and many other worthy men; and also to those that are here; we will declare to them the charge that belongs to every true Mason to keep: for good truth if you take heed to it, it is well worthy to be well kept, for a worthy Craft and curious Science, 

For there are seven liberal Sciences, of which it is one.

• The first is Grammar, that teaches a man to speak truth and write truly. 

• The second is Rhetoric, that teaches a man to speak fair and in subtle terms. 

• The third is Logic, that teaches to discern truth from falsehood. 

• The fourth is Arithmetic, that teaches to account and recount all manner of numbers. 

• The fifth is called Geometry and it teaches you boundaries and measures of the earth and other things, which Science is Masonry. 

• The sixth is Music, which teaches song and voice of tongue, of organ and harp.

• The seventh is called Astronomy, that teaches knowing the course of the sun and moon; and other ornaments of the heavens. 

These seven liberal Sciences, which seven are all one Science, that is to say Geometry, Thus may a man prove, that all Science in the world can found by Geometry; because it teaches boundaries and measures, balancing and weight of all manner of kind on earth: And there is no man that works by any Craft but he works by some measure; and no man that buys and sells, but by measure and weight, and all Geometricians and Craftsmen and Merchants find no other of the Seven Sciences; and especially plowmen and tillers of all manner of grain; of corn, seeds, vines, plants; sellers of all other fruit; for Grammar, nor Astronomy; nor any of all these can find a man one measure or boundary; without Geometry. And so I think that Science most worthy that finds all others. 

How this worthy Science was first begun I shall tell you: before Noah's flood there was a man called Lameth as it is written in the fourth Chapter of Genesis; and this Lameth had two wives, the one was called Adar, the other Sella; and by the first wife Adar he begat two sons. The one was called Jabell [Jabal], the other Juball [Jubal]; And by the other wife he had a son and a daughter; and these four children found the beginnings of all Craft in the world; This Jabal was the elder son; and he found the Craft of Geometry; and he kept flocks of sheep and lambs in the field, And he first wrought house of stone and tree, and it is noted in the Chapter aforesaid that his brother Jubal found music of song, harp and organ. 

The third brother, Tuball [Tubal-Cain], found out smiths’ crafts of Iron and steel; and their sister found weaving. These children did know that God would take vengeance for sin either by fire or water; and so they wrote the Sciences which they had found in two pillars of stone; that they might be found after the flood; The one stone was called marble that cannot burn with fire; The other was called Letera [Lateres] that cannot drown with water.

Our intent is to tell you truly how and in what manner these stones were found; and where these Crafts were written in Greek; Hermines  was son to Cus [Cush]; and Cush was son to Shem, who was the son of Noah: The same Hermines was afterwards Hermes; the Father of wise men and he found out the two pillars of stone where the Sciences were written and taught them forth.

And at the making of the Tower of Babylon [Babel] there was the craft of Masonry first found and made much of. The King of Babylon, which was called Hembroth or Membroth [Nimrod], was a mason who loved well the Craft; as it is said with the master of the Stories. And when the City of Ninivie [Niniveh] and other cities of East Asia were made, the King of Babylon sent there sixe... (2) at the desire of the King of Niniveh his cousin; and they went forth, and he gave them a Charge on this manner, that they should be true and live truly together; and that they should serve their lord truly for their payment; so that he might have honor for sending them and other Charges he gave them; and this was the first time that any Mason had any Charge of his Craft.

Moreover, when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egypt there were taught the seven Sciences to the Egyptians; and he had a worthy Scholar called Euchild [Euclid] and he learned right well and was Master of all the seven Sciences. And it befell in his days that the Lords and States of the Realm had so many sons that they had begotten, some by their wives, and some by Ladies of the Realm; for that Land is a holy Land and encouraged generation. And they had no competent living for their children; and so they made much sorrow. And the King of the Land made great council, and a call to know how they might find their children means to live, and they could find no good wages. And he caused a cry to be made throughout the Realm, that if there were any man that could inform him, that he should come to him and be well rewarded; and hold himself well paid.

And after this cry was made came this worthy Clerk Euclid who said to the King and all his great Lords: I will have your children governed and taught honestly as gentlemen should be, under condition that you will grant them and me a commission, that I may have power to rule them honestly as these Sciences ought to be ruled. And the King with his council granted them; and sealed that commission. And then that worthy Doctor took the Lords’ sons and taught them this Science of Geometry in practice to work masonry, all manner of worthy works, that belong to the building of castles, temples and churches, with all other buildings. And he gave them Charges in this manner:

First that they should be true to the King and to the Lords they served; and that they should love well together, and be true one to another; and that they should call one another fellows; and not servants nor knaves nor with any other foul names; and that they should truly serve their payment to the lord that others serve; and that they should ordain the wisest of them to be made Master of the Lord’s work; and neither for love, great lineage nor riches; nor set another that had little cunning to be Master of the Lord’s work whereby he should be evilly served or be ashamed; and that they should call the Governor of the work Master of the Work (3) while working with him. And [he gave them] many other Charges which are too long to tell [here].

And to all these charges he made them swear the great Oath men used in that time; and obtained for them reasonable payment; that they might live by it honestly: and also, that they should come and assemble with others that they might have council in these crafts; they might work best to serve their lord; for his profit and honor and to correct themselves if they had trespassed and thus the craft of Geometry was governed there. And that worthy Master gave it the name of Geometry and it is called masonry in this Land long after the Children of Israel were come into the land of...

It is now among us, in the country of Jerusalem King David began the temple of Jerusalem that is with them called Templum Dei [God’s Temple]. And it is said [that] King David loved masons well; and he cherished them; and he gave them good payment; and he gave them Charges that you shall hear afterwards. And after the decease of King David, Solomon, who was King David’s son planned out the Temple his Father had begun; and he sent afterwards Masons of various Lands; and he gathered them together; so that he had fourscore thousand [80,000] workers of stone; and they were named Masons; and he had three thousand of them, who were ordained Masters and Governors of the Work. And there was a King of another Region that men called Hyram [Hiram] and he loved well King So­lo­mon; and gave him timber for his work. He had a son who was named Aynon and was Master of Geometry; he was chief Master of all his Masons, and Master of all his grand works, and of all other masons that belonged to the Temple; and this witnesses the Bible in libro 2. Solo. capite 5.

And this son Solomon confirmed both charges and manners, that his father had given to Masons; and thus was the worthy craft of Masons confirmed in the country of Jerusalem, and in many other Kingdoms. Glorious Craftsmen walked abroad into diverse Countries, some because of learning more craft, and some others to teach their craft. And so it befell that a curious workman, who was named Nimus Greacus [Naymus Graecus] and who had been at the making of Solomon’s Temple, came into France; and there he taught the Craft of Masonry to the men of France. One of them, who was named Charles Martill [Charles Martel], and who loved well this Craft, drew to him this Naymus Greacus; and learned from him the Craft; and took upon himself the charges and manners. Afterwards by the grace of God he was elected King of France; and when he was in his Estate he took many Masons; and made Masons where there were none; and set them to work and gave them both charges and manners; and a good payment, which he had learned from other masons; and he conferred on them a charter to hold, from year to year, their assembly. And thus came the craft into France. All this while England was void, both of any charge or masonry; until the time of St. Albon [Alban].

And in his time the King of England, who was a Pagan, walled the town which is now called St. Albons [St. Albans]; and so in Albon’s time [he was] a worthy Knight; and chief Steward to the King and had government of the Realm; and also of making the town walls. He loved Masons well, and cherished them; and made their payment of right good standing, as the Realm did require. For he gave them every week three shillings six pence to double their wages; before that time through all the Land a Mason took but one penny a day, and next to that time that St. Alban mended it. He got them a Charter from the King and his council, and gave therm Charges as you shall hear hereafter.

After the decease of St. Alban there came grievous wars into England, through nations, so that the good rule of Masonry was destroyed, until the time of King Athelstone [Athelstan], who was a worthy King in England who brought the Land into good rest and peace again. And he built many great works and castles and abbeys; and many other buildings; and he loved Masons very well. 

He had a son that was named Ladrian [Edwin] who loved Masons much more than his father; for he was full of practice in Geometry. So he drew himself to commune with masons, to learn from them the Craft; and afterwards for the love he had to Masons, and to the Craft, he was made a Mason himself.

And he got of his father the King a Charter, and a commission to hold every year an assembly wherever they would wish within the Realm; and to correct themselves the statutes and trespasses, if it was to be done within the Craft. He held himself one assembly at York and there he made Masons, and gave them Charges, and taught them the manners of Masons. And he commanded that rule to be held ever after. And to them he gave the Charter and the commission to be kept; and he ordained that it should be ruled from King to King, when this assembly was gathered together. 

He caused a cry to be made that all Masons, both young and old that had any writing or understanding of the Charges that were made before in this Land, or in any other Land, should show them forth. And there were some in French, some in Greek, and some in English; and yet some in other languages. And the intent thereof was found.

And therefore he commanded a book to be made of the Craft [that] was [the] first found and made, and commanded that it should be read and told when any Masons should be made, and to give him his charge; and from that time until this day Masonry has been kept in that form and order as well as men might govern the same; and furthermore at various assemblies there have been put to and added certain Charges; more by the best advice of Masters and fellows.

Here follows the worthy and godly oath of Masons. Every man that is a Mason shall take heed right well to this charge: If you find yourself guilty of any of these, you have to amend; especially you that are to be charged take good heed that you may keep this Charge. For it is a great peril for a man to forswear himself on a book.

1. - The first charge is that you shall be true man to God; and the Holy Church; and that you use no heresy nor error by your understanding or by teaching of a discreet man.

2. - Also, you shall be true liegeman to the King, without treason or falsehood, and that you shall know no treason, but that you amend it if you may; or else warn the King or the Council of it.

3. - Also, you shall be true one to another that is to say to every Master and fellow of the trust of Masonry who are Masons allowed; and that you do to them as you would [like that] they should do to you.

4. - Also, that no Mason be a thief in company so far forth as you shall know.

5. - Also, every Mason shall keep true council of Lodge and Chamber and all other council that ought to be kept by the way of Masonry.

6. - Also, that you shall be true to the Lord and Master that you serve; and truly see to his profit and advantage.

7. - Also, that you do no villainy in that house whereby the Craft shall be slandered.

These are Charges in general which every Mason should hold both Masters and fellows.Now I will rehearse other Charges in singular for Masters and fellows:

1. - First that no Master shall take upon himself any Lord’s work or other work, but that he knows himself able and cunning to perform the same, so that the Craft have no dishonor that the Lord may be served and that truly.

2. - Also, that no Master take any work unless he takes it reasonably, so that the Lord may be truly served with his own good; and the Master to live honestly, and to pay his fellows truly their pay as the manner of the Craft does require.

3. - Also, that no Master nor fellow shall supplant others of their work; (that is to say) if you have taken a work, or stand Master of a Lord’s work you.shall not put him out of it; if he is able to perform the same.

4. - Also, that no Master nor fellow take any apprentice; to be allowed his apprentice; but for seven years; and that the apprentice be also of his birth and limbs as he ought to be.

5. - Also, that no Master nor fellow take allowance to be made Mason without the assent of his fellows that [are] at the least five or six; and that he that shall be made Mason is to be able; (that is to say) that he be free born, and of good kindred and no bondman; and that he have his right limbs as a man ought to have.

6. - Also, that no Master put a bondsman to task that is used to going to Journey.

7. - Also, every Mason shall give no pay to his fellows but as he shall discern; so that he is not deceived by false workmen.

8. - Also, that no fellow slander another falsely behind his back; to make him lose his good name or goods.

9. - Also, that no fellow within the Lodge or without answer another in an ungodly way without reasonable cause.

10. - Also, every Mason shall respect his elder and put him to honor.

11. - Also, that no Mason shall play at hazards or any other unlawful game; whereby they may be slandered.

12. - Also, that no Mason shall be a common ribald in lechery (4), to make the Craft slandered; and that no fellow will go into the town where there is a Lodge of fellows; without a fellow be with him, that may bear witness that he was in honest company.

13. - Also, that every Master and fellow shall come to the assembly if it is within fifty miles from him; if he has any warning; and to stand at the reward of Masters and fellows.

14. - Also, that every Master and fellow, if he has trespassed, shall stand at the reward of Masters and fellows to make them accord if he may; but if he may not, to go to the Common Law.

15. - Also, that no Mason make molds square or rule for any rough Layers.

16. - Also, that no Mason set any Layers within a Lodge or without to have mold stone with no mold of his own workings.

17. - Also, when they come over the country to set them to work as the manner is (that is to say) if they have mold stones in place, he shall set them a fortnight to work, and give them his hire; and if there are no stones for them, then [he shall] refresh them with some money, to bring them to the next Lodge.

18. - Also, you shall, and every Mason shall, serve truly the works; and truly make an end of your works, be it task or journey; if you may have your pay as you ought to have. 

These Charges that we have rehearsed and all others that belong to Masonry you shall keep, to the utmost of your knowledge. 

So help you God and by the contents of this book.

Finis p me Eduardu Sankey

Decimo sexto die Octobris

Anno Domini 1646.


1. - Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1763), Irish physicist, botanist and collector. He introduced milk chocolate into Europe, bequeathed his cabinet of curiosities to the nation to build the British Museum, was President of the Royal Society and physician to King George II. He gave his name to a London square and to several Masonic manuscripts.

2. - Some words are missing here; see Chapter 12, note 4. 

3. - First salutation found in the Old Charges reproduced in this book.

4. - Written in the text: “Shall Noe Mason bee has in common Rybold lecherie.” First encounter with this expression in the Ancient Masonic texts.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016