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Legend of the Craft

The Old Records of the Fraternity of Operative Freernasons, under the general name of Old Constitutions or Constitutions of Freemasonry, or Old Charges, were written in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. The 1099 of many of these by the indiscretion of overzealous Brethren was deplored by Anderson. This is mentioned by Dr. James Anderson in the Constitutions, 1738, as having taken place at the Assembly of June 24, 1720, "This Year, at some private Lodges, several very valuable Manuscripts for they had- nothing yet in Print concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets, and Usages particularly one writ by Mr. Nicholas Stone the Warden of Inigo Jones were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers; that those papers might not fall into strange Hands."

But a few of them have been long known to us, and many more have been recently recovered, by the labors of such men as Brother Hughan, from the archives of old Lodges and from manuscript coll dmnq in the British Museum. In these is to be found a history of Freemasonry; full, it is true, of absurdities and anachronisms, and yet exceedingly interesting, as giving us the belief of our ancient Brethren on the subject of the origin of the Order. This history has been called by Masonic writers the Legend of the Craft, because it is really a legendary narrative, having little or no historic authenticity. In all these Old Constitutions, the legend is substantially the same; showing, evidently, a common origin; most probably an oral teaching which prevailed in the earliest ages of the confraternity. In giving it, the Dowland Manuscript, as reproduced in Brother Hughan's Old Charges, 1872, has been selected for the purpose, because it is believed to be a copy of an older one of the beginning of the sixteenth century, and because its rather modernized spelling makes it more intelligible to the general reader.

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