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Roberts Manuscript

This is the first of those manuscripts the originals of which have not yet been recovered, and which are known to us only in a printed copy. The Roberts Manuscript, so called from the name of the printer, J. Roberts, was published by him at London, in 1722, under the title of The Old Constitutions belonging to the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons. Taken from a Manuscript wrote above fife hundred years since. Of this work, which had passed out of the notice and knowledge of the Masonic world, Richard Spencer, of London, being in possession of a copy, published a second edition in 1870. On a collation of this work with the Harleian Manuscript, it is evident that either both were derived from one and the same older manuscript, or that one of them has been copied from the other; although, if this be the ease, there has been much carelessness on the part of the transcriber.

If the one was transcribed from the other, there is internal evidence that the Harleian is the older exemplar. The statement on the title-page of Roberts' book, that it was "taken from a manuscript wrote over five hundred years since," is contradicted by the simple fact that, like the Harleian Manuscript, it contains the regulations adopted at the General Assembly held in 1663. There is a reprint of the work in the Constitutions of the Freemasons, 1871, a compilation by the Rev. J. E. Cox, also published by Brother Richard Spencer. The Spencer sale in 1875 resulted in the Grand Lodge of Iowa acquiring the printed version of which there was then known to be but the one specimen.

Since then another copy has appeared which, passing through the hands of Messrs. Fletcher of Bayswater, England, is now privately owned. An excellent reprint was published by courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, in 1917, at Anamosa, Iowa, then the headquarters of the National Masonic Research Society, and having a foreword by Brother J. F. Newton. Discussions of this version of the old Constitutions have appeared in Doctor Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry (page iii), Gould's History of Freemasonry (I, page 75); W. J. Hughan's Old Charges (page 121); Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (1909, page 185) .

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