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Rawlinson Manuscript

In 1855, the Rev. J. S. Sidebotham, of New College, Oxford, published in the Freemasons Monthly Magazine a series of interesting extracts from a manuscript volume which he stated was in the Bodleian Library, and which he described as seeming "to be a kind of Masonic album, or commonplace book, belonging to Brother Richard Rawlinson, LL.D. and F.R.S., of the following Lodges: Sash and Cocoa-tree, Moorfields, 37; Saint Paul's Head, Ludgate Street, 40; Rose Tavern, Cheapside, and Oxford Arms, Ludgate Street, 94; in which he inserted anything that struck him either as useful or particularly amusing. It is partly in manuscript, partly in print, and comprises some ancient Masonic Charges, Constitutions, forms of summons, a list of all the Lodges of his time under the Grand Lodge of England, whether in London, the country, or abroad; together with some extracts from the Grub street Journal, the General Evening Post, and other journals of the day. The dates range from 1724 to 1740" (Freemasons Monthly Magazine, 1855, page 81). A later inquiry as to his membership disclosed that Richard Rawliason was a member of four Lodges, the one held at Sash and Cocoa-tree, the one at Saint Paul's Head, the Barbican, and the Oxford University Arms~ He served as Grand Steward in 1734.

Among the materials thus collected is one which bears the following title: The Freemasons Constitution, Copied from an Old Manuscript in the possession of Doctor Rawlinson. This copy of the Old Constitutions does not differ materially in its contents from the other old manuscripts, but its more modern spelling and phraseology would seem to give it a later date, which may be from 172S50. In a note to the statement that King Athelstan "caused a roll or book to be made, which declared how this science was first invented, afterwards preserved and augmented, with the utility and true intent thereof, which roll or book he commanded to be read and plainly recited when a man was to be made a Freemason," Doctor Rawlinson says: "One of these rolls I have seen in the possession of Mr. Baker, a carpenter in Moorfields." The title of the manuscript in the scrap-book of Rawlinson is The Freemasons' Constitution, Copied from an Old Manuscript in the possession of Doctor Rawlinson. The original manuscript has not yet been traced, but possibly if found would be of about the end of the seventeenth century.

Richard Rawlinson, LL.D., was a celebrated antiquary, who was born in London about 1689, and died April 6, 1755. He was the author of a Life of Anthony Wood, published in 1711, and of The English Topographer, published in 1720. Doctor Rawlinson was consecrated a Bishop of the conjuring communion of the Church of England, March 25, 1728. He was an assiduous collector of old manuscripts, invariably purchasing, sometimes at high prices, all that were offered him for sale. In his will, dated June 2, 1752, he bequeathed the whole collection to the University of Oxford. The manuscripts were placed in the Bodleian Library, and still remain there. In 1898, Dr. W. J. Chetwode Crawley published in the Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge (volume xi), a full account of the Rawlinson manuscripts, in which he shows (page 15) that the collection was not reallv made by Doctor Rawlinson, but by one Thomas Towl.

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