The original of the hundred or so copies of the Old Charges (Old MSS, Old Constitutions, etc.) must have been written in the Fourteenth Century, perhaps about 1350 A.D. Each and every Masonic student would desire above almost anything else to have a detailed knowledge of Freemasonry as it then was; who and what men the Masons were; how they dressed; their manner of work; in what houses they lived, and how much they earned; and so on forth. To arrive at even an approximation of that picture he must collect small bits of fact from here and there, a short reference, a line in a book, a history of the building art, a study of contemporary laws, etc.
Among these sources is one which as yet has not been utilized by any Masonic scholar, at least if it has his book has not reached America: it consists of those small pictures which the writers of the MSS., Masonic and otherwise, often used to draw or paint into some small space in their parchment (or vellum) left by the text vignettes often of cunning workmanship and masterly composition. The large number of these MSS. are in Britain or Europe; a number of them however can be seen in American private collections, such as Morgan's in New York City, and Huntington~s in California, or in any one of the large universities; also, they may be found reproduced in books or photographs in any of the better metropolitan Libraries. A Masonic student looking out for a path of his own in research, and if he have access to the materials, can be promised that he will find out something new, and in time may be able to publish a Masonic book of a novel kind.
A small specimen list is not interesting to read; it may, however, serve as an illustration of what is said above, and at the same time give a beginning student sufficient guidance for making a start:
The earliest Speculative Lodges at the time of the first Grand Lodge met in public rooms in taverns, and each tavern was named after its sign, which hung in front in the form of a picture. Operative Masons four centuries before doubtless gathered in the evenings for ale or beer and for talk in taverns of the same type. Two of them are pictured in the Bodleian Library (Oxford) MSS., No.264, which like each title in the list, is of the Fourteenth Century Among five pictures in Brit. Mus. 2 B. VII are: a suit of everyday clothes worn by craftsmen; a straw bee-skelp (or bee-hive).
Brit. Mus. Roy. 20. C. VII contains detailed picture of a burning at the stake, the method being the same as that of the Pps; another of a beheading; and in Brit. Mus. Roy. E. IV is a scene showing a criminal being drawn.
Brit. Mus. Fasc. 175; Masons building a tower, using a windlass. B. M. Roy. 15. D. III- Mason using stone axle shows how ramp was used to carry stones up to top of high walls. In another MS. not named, the King--or some other crowned noble or prince--looks on while a Mason uses a plumb-line; in this operation a wooden inclined plane with cleats is used instead of a ladder.
A MS. in Brit. Nat., Paris; a building scene, showing use of ladder. B. M. MS, Roy. 10 E. IV; sawmills were run by man powers and sawyers did not belong to same gild as carpenters B. M. MS. Harl. 6563: a smith wears leather apron B. M. MS. Roy. 2. B. VII; stone carver, sitting on bench ("bank"), using gavel. B. M. Addl. MS. 10292; stone carving by method of incising. B. M. MS. Roy. 2. B. VII; four stone-cutters- one is Master of Masons; shape of gavel is very clearly shown (In very few instances are Masons shown wearing Aprons Smiths always wear leather aprons.) B. M. MS. Egeston 1894- Mason on back, inside altar canopy, while carving above his head. B. M. My. Luttrell Psalter. Building walls was a specialty. Such Masons were "wailers" and had own gild. This is a picture of their work; a city wall, towers gates, etc.
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