Chapter 32

The Wilkinson Manuscript (1727)


Unlike most other Old Charges of its time, the Wilkinson Manuscript con­tains no legendary history of Freemasonry, revelations of signs, grips, words, charges and rules, but a long Catechism made of some 74 questions and... 74 answers.

It is however of great interest because in it are given many new Masonic formulations adopted by Modern rituals, among which we can mention: the mythical grave of Hiram, the meaning of numbers such as three and seven, and the evident difference between stone Masons, Layers and gentlemen Masons.

The document - The Wilkinson Manuscript was found by a Brother... Harold Wilkinson, member of the United Grand Lodge of England, in 1946 in his family archives and is presently held by the Masonic Library of Northampton to which it was given.

Editor’s note - Presented below in its original form, the Wilkinson Manuscript is fully understandable by any reader; so we have decided not to adapt it nor correct its spelling (see page 234, for abbreviations). 

The Original Text

Questions and Answers

Question. - Are you a Mason?

Answer. - I am so taken to be among Brothers & fellows.

Q. - How shall I know you to be a Mason?

A. - by Signs, tokens, & perfect Poynts of Entrance.

Q. - What are Signs?

A. - All Square, Levells & perpendiculars.

Q. - What are tokens?

A. - Certain Gripes.

Q. - Give me the first, I’ll give you ye Second.

A. - Ex… I heal     I Conceal.

Q. - What do you Conceal?

A. - All ye Secretts or Secrecy of a Mason or Masonry.

Q. - What are Secretts?

A. - Signs, tokens & many Words.

Q. - Have you any by words as a Mason?

A. - I have.

Q. - Give me one.

A. - I’ll letter it with you.

Q. - Give me the first I’ll give you ye Second 

       1   -------------------  B

       2   -------------------  O

       3   -------------------  A

       4   -------------------  Z

       1   -------------------  BO

       2   -------------------  AZ

– Vide ye 3d Chap. of 2d book of Chronicles v. 17th where you’ll find Boaz was the Name of the Pillar of the left hand before Solomons Temple, yt on ye Right hand Iachin.

– Right Worshipfull, the Master & fellows of the Holy Lodge of St Iohn from whence I Came Greet you, Greet you, Greet you, three Welcome Brothers.

Q. - What did you see before you was Admitted into the Lodge?

A. - The Iunior Apprentice with a drawn Sword in his hand.

Q. - How was you Admitted into the Lodge?

A. - By three great knocks.

Q. - Who Introduced you into the Lodge? 

A. - The Iunior Warden.

Q. - How did he Introduce you?

A. - Led me Round the Lodge due East & West & presented me to the Senior Warden.

Q. - What did he do with you?

A. - Led me up three great Stepts to the Master.

Q. - What did the Master do with you?

A. - Made me a Mason.

Q. - How was you made a Mason? 

A. - Neither setting nor Standing Naked nor Cloathed but in due form.

Q. - What is due form? 

A. - With bare bended knee to the Ground between the Square & my left hand upon the bible, my Right hand Extended with the Compasses to my Naked left breast, taking the Solemn Obligation of a Mason.

Q. - Can you Repeat it? 

A. - I can.

Q. - Repeat it.

A. - I do hereby Solemnly Promise & declare in the Presence of Almighty God, that:

I will heal & Conceal all the Secretts or Secrecy of a Mason or Masonry that has been heretofore, shall be now, or at any time hereafter, Revealed to me that I will not Speak or Declare them to any Saving a Brother or fellow after due Examination that I will not write them, work them, mark them, Point them or Engrave them: or Cause them to be wrote [written] Marked, Pointed or Engraved on any thing moveable or Immoveable Under no less Penalty than having my Throat Cut, my tongue tore from the Roof of my Mouth, my heart Plucked from under my Left breast & buryed in the Sands of the Sea, a Cables Length from the Land where the tide Ebbs & flows twice in 24 hours, my body to be burned to Ashes, and the Ashes Scattered over the face of the whole Earth that there may be no Remembrance of me. So help me God.

Kissing the bible.

Q. - What did you see when you was Introduc’d into the Lodge?

A. - Three great lights.

Q. - What do they Represent?

A. - Sun. Moon. & Master Mason.

Q. - Why so?

A. - The Sun to Rule the day, the Moon ye Night and the Master Mason the Lodge.

Q. - Where does the Master Stand?

A. - In the East.

Q. - Why so?

A. - As the Sun Rises in the East to open the Day So the Master Stands in the East to open the Lodge & Sett the Men to Work.

Q. - Where does ye Warden Stand?

A. - In the West.

Q. - Why so?

A. - As the Sun setts in the West to Close the Day so he dismisses the Men from Work.

Q. - Where does the fellow Craft [stand]?

A. - In the South.

Q. - Why so?

A. - To heal & Conceal & Conceal & welcome strange Brothers.

Q. - Where does ye Entered Apprentice Stand?

A. - In the North.

Q. - Why so?

A. - To heal & Conceal Receive Instructions & Strengthen the Lodge.

Q. - How is your Lodge Situated?

A. - Due East & West as all holy Places are or Ought to be.

Q. - Where does it Stand?

A. - Upon holy Ground in the Vale of Iehosophat or Elsewhere.

Q. - How high is your Lodge?

A. - Feet & Inches Innumerable.

Q. - What is the form of your Lodge?

A. - An Oblong Square.

Q. - Why so?

A. - The Manner of our Great Master Hirams grave.

Q. - What is the Center of yr Lodge?

A. - The Letter G.

Q. - What does it Signify?

A. - Geometry.

Q. - Have you any Immoveable Iewels in Yr Lodge?

A. - We have.

Q. - How many?

A. - Three.

Q. - What are they?

A. - The Mosaick Pavement, the dented Asler & the broach Urnell (1).

Q. - What’s the first Use of them?

A. - The Mosaick Pavement for the Master to draw his design upon; the dented Asler for the fellow Craft to try their Iewells on; And the broach Urnell for the Entered Apprentice to Work upon.

Q. - Have you any Moveable Iewells in yr Lodge?

A. - We have.

Q. - How many?

A. - Three.

Q. - What are they?

A. - Square, Levell & Plumb.

Q. - What are their Use

A. - The Square to see yt Corner Stones are laid square; the Levell that they are laid Levell And ye Plumb to Raise Perpendiculars.

Q. - What’s the furniture of your Lodge?

A. - The Bible, Compasses & the Square.

Q. - How is yr Lodge Supported?

A. - By three great Pillars.

Q. - What do they Signify?

A. - Wisdom to Contrive; Strength to Support & Bea[u]ty to Adorn.

Q. - What’s the Name of a Mason?

A. - Giblin.

Q. - What’s a Mason’s Sons Name?

A. - Lewis (2).

Q. - Where is his Place?

A. - Under the Eves of the Lodge.

Q. - What’s his Priviledge?

A. - To be Made a Mason before all others.

Q. - How many makes a Lodge?

A. - Five free & Accepted Masons met together in place and due form.

Q. - How many make a true & perfect Lodge

A. - Seven.

Q. - What do they Consist of?

A. - A Master, two Wardens (3), two fellow Crafts and two Entered Apprentices.

Q. - Have you seen the Master today?

A. - I have.

Q. - How was he Cloathed?

A. - In a Yellow lacket & blew pr of breeches.

Q. - Where do [you] keep yr Secretts as a Mason?

A. - In a bone box that Neither Opens nor Shuts but with Ivory keys, nine Inches or a Span from my Mouth.

Q. - Have you any Principles?

A. - I have.

Q. - What?

A. - Point, Line, Superficies & Solid. Definitions in Euclid: A point is yt wch hath no Part, A line is a length witht a breadth, A superficies is yt wch hath only length & breadth A Solid is yt wch hath length breadth & Depth.

Q. - What is a Mason?

A. - A Man born born of a Woman, Brother to a King, Companion to a prince, & fellow to a Lord?

Q. - What did you learn by being a Mason?

A. - As a Working Mason to hew Stone & Raise Perpendiculars; as a Gent’ Mason (4). Secrecy Morality & good ffellowship.

Q. - How Came you to be Made a Mason?

A. - By my own Desire & ye Recomendatn of a friend.

Q. - Whence Come you?

A. - From the Holy Lodge of St Iohn.

Q. - Where were you made a Mason?

A. - In a true & perfect lodge.

Q. - How does the Wind blow?

A. - Due East & West.

Q. - Whats a Clock?

A. - High Twelve.

Q. - Whats the Night for?

A. - To hear & the day to see.

Q. - Whats Metal Made off?

A. - Neither Silver nor Gold Pewter nor brass, Iron nor Steele. But the tongue of a good Report, that Speaks the Same behind a Brother as before his face.

Q. - If a Mason be lost where is he to be found?

A. - Between the Square & the Compass.

Q. - Why so?

A. - Because a Mason Shod always be upon the Square and live within Compass.

When any Person or persons are in Company you know not to be a Mason, the Common Sayings are: It Rains, or it drops, or The House is Until’d, [or] Tyle the House &c.

When any thing is Given you by a Mason, & he Asks what it smells off? The Ansr is: a Mason.

Q. - Whats the Age of a Mason? 

A. - Three times Seven.

When you are Asked how Old you are: 

When an Apprentice under Seven; 

Fellow Craft under Fourteen; 

When a Master, three times Seven.


1. - In other words: The mosaic pavement, the rough stone and the carved stone.

2. - Lewis - This name is given to a Mason’s son who is becoming a Mason himself. In the old days, it was the name a tool used to move stones.

3. - This is the first appearance of a second Warden in the Masonic Lodge. 

4. - A gentleman Mason - Without any doubt, the mention is made here of an Accepted Mason, so a notable or aristocratic man “accepted” as a Mason.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016