Chapter 23

The Sloane No.3329 Manuscript (1700)


Unlike most of the manuscripts already mentioned in this book, the Sloane No. 3329 Manuscript has no detailed history of Geometry and Masonry. 

It contains, as do several of them, a questions and answers Catechism, but it also includes, in detail, the words and signs of Freemasons – Freemason being, to our knowledge, shown for the first time in one block in a document of English origin, and not as usual as two words: Free Mason.

But this is not the only peculiarity of the Sloane Manuscript, which seems to make a significant distinction between the Entered Apprentice, 

Fellow Craft and Master. This suggests that previous to the year 1700, the approximate date estimated for the document, some English lodges were already working with three degrees – Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master.

The document - Other points to be remembered: the allusion to a character bigger than the freemason, “who was transported to the highest pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem,” and to the freemason himself who must hold his sacred principles; a clear distinction made between the Mason Word and the Master Word, which are both quoted; and most curiously the long list of signs and words that masons use to recognize themselves in public or privately.

Editor’s note - Presented below in its original writing, the Sloane No. 3329 Manuscript is fully understandable by any reader; so we have decided not to adapt it nor correct its spelling.

The Original Text

A narrative of the Freemasons word and signes (1).

First they discover other by signes next they go in private to discourse, one signe is by giving their right hand a cast cross their brest from left to right with the tops of their ffingers about 3 or 4 inches below their Chin, another is by puling of their hat wth their right hand their two first ffingers aboue and the thumb and all the rest below the hats brim puling it of and giving it a cast from Left to right then on their head another is of drinking giving the glass a acast cross under their chin from left to right: 

Another is taking their handkerchief by the corner wth their right hand and throw it over their Left shoulder letting it hang down their back and so walk a few steps along if any Mason see it they will follow and take him by the hand; their gripe for fellow craftes is grasping their right hands in Each other thrusting their thumb naile close upon the Third joynt of each others first ffinger their Masters gripe is grasping their right hands in each other placing their four finger’s nails hard upon the Carpus or end of others wrists and their thumb nailes thrust hard directly between the second Joynt of the thumb and the third Joynt of the first ffinger but some say the masters grip is the same I last discribed only each of their midle ffingers must reach an inch or three barly comes (2) Length higher to touch upon a vein yt comes from the heart.

Another signe is placing their right heell to the inside of their left in forme of a square so walk a few steps backward and forward and at every third step make a Little Stand placeing their feet Square as aforesd. this done any if masons perceive it they will presently come to you if you come where any masons tooles lyes lay ym in forme of a square (they will presently know yt a free brother hath been there or a free brother coming where free massons are at worke if he takes some of their tooles and lay ym in form of a Square) it is a signe to discover him, or if he takes one of their tooles or his own Staff and Strike saftly on the wall or worke saying this is bose or hollow (3) if their be any free brother at the work he will answer it is solid wch words are signes to discover each other. 

Another signe some use bending their right arme in form of a Square & laying the palm of their left hand upon their heart. 

Another is by twisting their eyes toward the east and twisting their mouth toward ye west Another is bending their right knee holding up their hand towards the east and if it be night or dark they will give two Little haughts and a great one as if they were forceing a bone or a lump out of their throat, they will say ye day is for seeing the night for hereing, 

Another signe is by lending you a crooked pin or a bit of paper cut in the forme of a Square on receipt of wch you must come from wt place or company soever you are in by virtue of your oath and by ye aforementioned sign of ye hat or hand you are to come if it were from the top of a Steeple to know their pleasure and to assist them And to lett you know he wants money he will hold a bitt of a pipe (or some such thing) to you saying can you change a Cole pence if you have money you say is [yes] if you have none say no.

Some will signifye their want of money by pulling their knife out of the sheath and giving it to a brother in company or alone if the brother haue money he takes the knife puting it in it’s sheath and returne it, if he haue none he will return it bare as he received it; which many of them do notwithstanding their oath and many other signes they reject thô by oath they are bound to obey all; 

Another signe is by taking their handkerchief in their right hand and blow their nose then holding it Straight out before them they give it two Little shakes and a big one.

Another signe is knocking at any door two little knocks and the third a big one.

They haue another signe used at the Table drinking when the glass goes not fast enough round they say Star the guile.

To Discourse a Mason in France, Spaine, or Turkey (say they} the signe is to kneel Down on his left knee and. hold up his right hand to the sunn and the outlandish Brother will presently take him up but beleive me if they go on their knees on that accot they may remain there; or any persons observe their signes as Long as ye Jews will remaine on their beleife to receive their wished for Mesias from the East.

Here followeth there private discourse by way of Question and Answer.

Question. - Are you a Mason?

Answer. - Yes I am a freemason (4).

Q. - How shall I know that?

A. - By perfect signes and tokens and the first poynts of my Enterance.

Q. - Which is the first signe or token skew me the first and I will shew you the second.

A. - The first is heal and Conceal or Conceal and keep secrett by no less paine than cutting my tongue from my throat.

Q. - Where were you made a Mason?

A. - In a just and perfect or just and Lawfull Lodge.

Q. - What is a just and perfect or just and Lawfull Lodge?

A. - A just and perfect Lodge is two Interprintices two fellow craftes and two Masters (5) more or fewer the more the merrier the fewer the Better Chear but if need require five will serve that is two Interprintices two fellow Craftes and one Master on the highest hill or Lowest Valley of the world without the crow of a Cock or the bark of a Dogg.

Q. - From whome do you derive your principalls?

A. - From a greater than you.

Q. - Who is that on earth that is greater than a freemason? 

A. - He yt was caryed to ye highest pinnicall of the Temple (6) of Jerusalem.

Q. - Whither is your Lodge shut or open?

A. - It is shut.

Q. - Where Lyes the Keys of the Lodg[e] doore?

A. - They Ley in a bound Case or under a three cornerd pavemt about a foot and halfe from the Lodge door.

Q. - Wt is the Keys of your Lodge Doore made of?

A. - It is not made of Wood Stone Iron or steel or any sort of mettle but the tongue of a good report behind a Brothers back as well as before his face.

Q. - How many Jewles belong to your Lodge?

A. - There are three the Square pavemt the blazing Star (7) and the Danty tassley. 

Q. - How Long is the Cable rope of your Lodge?

A. - As Long as from the Lop of the Liver to the root of the tongue.

Q. - How many Lights are in your Lodge?

A. - Three the sun the master and the Square?

Q. - How high is your Lodge?

A. - Without foots yards or Inches it reaches to heaven.

Q. - How Stood your Lodge?

A. - East and west as all holly Temples Stand.

Q. - Wch is the masters place in the Lodge?

A. - The east place is the masters place in the Lodge and the Jewell resteth on him first and he setteth men to works wt the masters have in the foornoon the wardens reap in the Afternoon.

In some places they discourse as followeth (Vizt)

Question. - Where was the word first given?

Answer. - At the Tower of Babylon [Babel].

Q. - Where did they first call their Lodge?

A. - At the holy Chapell of St John.

Q. - How Stood your Lodge?

A. - As the said holy Chapell and all other holy Temples Stand (Vizt) east and west.

Q. - How many lights are in your Lodge?

A. - Two one to see to go in and another to see to work.

Q. - What were you sworne by?

A. - By god and the Square.

Q. - Whither above the Cloathes or under the C[loathes]?

A. - Under the Cloathes.

Q. - Under what Arme?

A. - Under the right Arme.

Q. - God is Gratfull to all Worshipfull Masters and fellows in that Worshipfull Lodge from whence me [we] Last came and to you good fellow wt is your name?

A. - J or B. 

Then giving the grip of the hand he will say Brother John greet you well you.

A. - Gods good greeting to you dear Brother.

Another salutation is giving the masters or fellows grip saying the right Worshipfull the masters and fellows in that Worshipfull Lodge from whence we Last came greet you greet you greet you well, then he will repley Gods good greeting to you dear Brother.

Another they haue called the masters word and is Mahabyn (8) which is allways divided into two words and Standing close With their Breasts to each other the inside of Each others right Ancle Joynts the masters grip by their right hands and the top of their Left hand fingers thurst close on ye small of each others Backbone and in that posture they Stand till they whisper in each others eares ye one Maha- the other repleys Byn.

The Oath

The mason word and every thing therein contained you shall keep secrett you shall never put it in writing directly or Indirectly you shall keep all that we or your attenders shall bid you keep secret from Man Woman or Child Stock or Stone and never reveal it but to a brother or in a Lodge of Freemasons and truly observe the Charges in ye Constitucion all this you promise and swere faithfully to keep and observe without any manner of Equivocation or mentall Resarvation directly or Indirectly so help you god and by the Contents of this book.

So he kisses the Book &c.


1. - The Sloane No. 3329 Manuscript has the merit of making a major clear distinction between Mason Word and Master Word, coming, the first one from operative Masonry, the second belonging to a third degree – symbolic – which has not yet been made official in Masonry.

2. - Barleycorn - Old English unit of measurement equal to 1/3 inch.

3. - There is no word bose in the English language, but the name of the left column of the Temple of Solomon is Boaz; however, bose means hollow in Scottish English. Interestingly, in the Trinity College MS, the Entered Apprentice’s sign is to squeeze his sinews [the space between the knuckles?] and say “Boaz or it’s hollow.”’

4. - While the Old Charges, previously established, evoked the Science of Geometry, Masonry and free Masons, the Sloane Manuscript has this other feature to associate the terms “Mason” and ... “Free Mason”, the latter being written in only one word: “Freemason”.

5. - It cannot be more clear: A “just and perfect Lodge” includes Entered Apprentices, Fellow Crafts and Masters - the latter having nothing in common with the (Whorshipful) Master of the Lodge .

6. - The question and its answer resemble those included in Masonry Dissected by Samuel Prichard (1730):

Q. When you came into the middle, what did you see?

A. The Resemblance of the Letter G.

Q. Who doth that G denote?

A. One that’s greater than you.

Q. Who’s greater than I, that am a Free and Accepted Mason, the Master of a Lodge?

A. The Grand Architect and Contriver of the Universe, or He that was taken up to the top of the Pinnacle of the Holy Temple.

See Matthew 5:4 and Luke 4:9).

7. - This is the first time that a blazing Star is quoted in a masonic text.

8. - Danty Tassley is a misunderstanding or corruption. The Edinburgh Register House Manuscript (1698) has Perpend Esler [perfect ashlar]. Much later rituals have Indented Tessel, indicating a decorated border around a checkered pavement.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016