The Leyland-Locke Manuscript


Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, xxxii, 141–2

The Leland-Locke MS.—In 1883 Bro. Robert Freke Gould in his History of Freemasonry (i., 489) described this document—which he placed with The Steinmetz Catechism; The Malcolm Canmore Charter; Krause’s MS.; The Charter of Cologne; and The Larmenius Charter, among “Apocryphal Manuscripts,”—as one “which all authorities, except Fort, concur in regarding as an impudent forgery.” In 1903 he said (Concise History of Freemasonry, p. 166) that “modern writers . . . regard it as a palpable fraud and wholly unworthy of the critical acumen which has been lavished on its contents.” In “Notes on Historical Freemasonry,” published in The Northern Freemason (Liverpool), February, 1906, his views appear to have been modified in consequence of an article which had appeared in The New Age (U.S.A.) for October, 1904, and in his paper in the former journal he gave reasons which were conclusive to his mind “with regard to the necessity that exists for a re-hearing of the evidence in the case of the Locke MS.” Several writers in the late Eighteenth Century seem to have doubted the genuineness of the document, though amongst English Masons it was accepted by both Antients and Moderns. Dermott printed it in full in the 2nd edition (1764) of his Ahiman Rezon, though curiously enough he made no mention of it in the 1st edition of 1756, three years after its publication in the Gentleman’s Magazine1 Noorthouck has it in his edition of the Constitutions of 1784; and of course Preston and Oliver accepted it without question. Dr. Fort Newton, in The Builders (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1914, p. 111), says of the document that it “is allowed by all to be genuine.” Probably he speaks of his countrymen in the U.S.A., for in the present day few students could be found here who would subscribe to such an opinion; and the following Note from The Bodleian Quarterly Record (Vol. III., No. 26, p. 27) is therefore of great interest. — W.J.S.

The Philologist and the Forger.—The forger of literary and historical documents has many pitfalls in his path, but his fall is often long delayed. A forgery which for many years has found supporters is a masonic treatise entitled ‘Certayne Questyons . . . Concernynge Maconrye; wryttenne by . . . Kynge Henrye the Sixthe . . . and . . . copyed by me Johan Leylande,’ published in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1753, xxiii., 417, but stated to be a reprint of Ein Brief von . . . Herrn Johann Locke (Frankfurt, 1748), where it is said that the original manuscript is in the Bodleian Library. No such manuscript, however, has ever come to light, and Mr. Madan, in his Summary Catalogue, refers to it as mythical. A student of masonry recently made a special visit to Oxford with a view to a further search for the treatise, because, as he said. ‘masonically this is by no means as universally regarded as spurious as it was some thirty or so years ago.’ Needless to say, he did not succeed where Mr. Madan had failed, but the authenticity of the text was still undecided. It occurred to a member of the Staff to ask Mr. Onions, one of the editors of the New English Dictionary, whether the treatise could possibly have been written as early as 1460. Mr. Onions kindly examined the text, and almost immediately denounced it as spurious on account of the occurrence of the word ‘kymistrye’ (chemistry), which is not found in English until about the year 1600 and which did not become common until the middle of the seventeenth century. By such slips is the forger betrayed. — S.G.

  1. Probably the earliest print of the document in a Masonic work is in The Pocket Companion, published by J. Scott, London, 1764.↩︎

Gentleman’s Magazine

September, 1753. pp. 417-421

Copy of a small pamphlet, consisting of 12 pages in octavo, printed at Franckfort, in Germany, in 1748, entitled,

Ein Brief Vondem Beruchmten Herrn Herrn Johann Locke, betreffend die Frey-Maureren, so auf einem Schrieb-Tisch eines verstorbnen Bruders ist gefunden worden.

That Is

A Letter of the famous Mr. John Locke, relating to Free-Masonry; found in the Desk or Scritoir of a deceased Brother.

A letter from the learned Mr John Locke to the Rt Hon * * * Earl of * * * *, with an old Manuscript on the Subject of Free-Masonry.

6th May, 1696.

My Lord,

I have at length, by the help of Mr. C——ns, procured a copy of that MS. in the Bodleian library, which you were so curious to see; and, in obedience to your lordship's commands, I herewith send it to you. Most of the notes annex’d to it, are what I made yesterday for the reading of my Lady Masham, who is become so fond of Masonry, as to say, that she now more than ever wishes herself a man, that she might be capable of admission into the Fraternity.

The MS. of which this is a copy, appears to be about 160 years old; yet (as your Lordship will observe by the title) it is itself a copy of one yet more ancient by about 100 years: For the original is said to be the handwriting of K. H. VI. Where that prince had it is at present an uncertainty: but it seems to me to be an examination (taken perhaps before the king) of some one of the brotherhood of Masons; among whom he entered himself, as ’tis said, when he came out of his minority, and thenceforth put a stop to a persecution that had been raised against them: but I must not detain your Lordship longer by my preface from the thing itself.

I know not what effect the sight of this old paper may have upon your lordship; but for my own part I cannot deny that it has so much raised my curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the Fraternity, which I am determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I go to London, and that will be shortly. I am,

I am, my Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
and most humble Servant,

*  *  *

Certayne Questyons, wyth Answeres to the same, concerning the
Mystery of MACONRYE;
wryttene by the hande of Kynge Henrye the Sixthe of the name, and faithfullye copyed by me1 JOHAN LEYLANDE, Antiquarius, by the commaunde of his2 Highnesse.

They be as followethe,

QUEST. What mote ytt be?3

ANSW. Ytt beeth the skylle of nature, the understondynge of the myghte that ys hereynne, and its sondrye werkynges; sonderlyche, the skylle of reckenyngs, of waightes and metynges, and the true manere of faconnynge al thynges for mannes use; headlye, dwellinges, and buyldynges of alle kindes, and all odher thynges that make gudde to manne.

QUEST. Where dyd ytt begynne?

ANSW. Ytt dydd begynne with the fyrste menne yn the este,4 whych were before the ffyrste menne of the weste; and comyinge westlye, ytt hathe broughte herwyth alle comfortes to the wylde and comfortlesse.

QUEST. Who dyd brynge ytt westlye?

ANSW. The Venetians,5 whoo beynge grate merchaundes, comed ffyrste ffromme the este ynn Venetia, for the commodyte of merchaundysynge beithe este and weste beg the redde and myddlonde sees.

QUEST. Howe comede ytt yn Engelonde?

ANSW. Peter Gower,6 a Grecian, journeydde ffor kunnynge yn Egypte, and in Syria, and yn everyche londe, whereas the Venetians hadde plaunted maçonrye, and wynnynge entraunce yn al lodges of maconnes, he lerned muche, and retournedde, and woned yn Grecia Magna,7 wacksynge and becommynge a myghtye wyseacre,8 and gratelyche renowned, and her he framed a grate lodge at Groton,9 and maked manye maçonnes, some whereoffe dyde journeys yn Fraunce and maked manye maconnes, wherefromme, yn processe of tyme, the arte passed in Engelonde.

QUEST. Dothe maçonnes descouer here artes unto odhers?

ANSW. Peter Gower, whenne he journeyede to lerne, was ffyrste10 made, and anonne techedde; evenne soe shulde all odhers beyn recht. Natheless11 maçonnes hauethe alweys, yn everyche tyme, from tyme to tyme, communycatedde to mannkynde soche of her secrettes as generallyche myghte be usefulle; they haueth keped back soche allein as shulde be harmfulle yff they comed yn euylle haundes, oder soche as ne myghte be holpynge wythouten the techynges to be joynedde herwythe in the lodge, oder soche as do bynde the freres more stronglyche togeder, bey the proffytte and commodytye comynge to the confrerie herfromme.

QUEST. Whatte artes haueth the maçonnes techedde mankynde?

ANSW. The artes12 agricultura, architectura, astronomia, geometria, numeres, musica, poesie, kymistrye, governmente, and relygyonne.

QUEST. Howe commethe Maçonnes more teachers than odher menne?

ANSW. The hemselfe haueth allein in arte of ffyndynge neue artes,13 whyche arte the ffyrste maconnes receaued from Godde; by the whyche they fyndethe what artes hem plesethe, and the treu way of techynge the same. Whatt odher menne doethe ffynde out, ys onelyche bey chaunce, and herfore but lytel I tro.

QUEST. What dothe the Maçonnes concele and hyde?

ANSW. Thay concelethe the arte of ffyndynge neue artes, and thatt ys for here owne proffytte, and preise.14 they concelethe the arts of kepynge secrettes,15 that soe the worlde mayeth nothinge concele from them. Thay concele the the arte of wunderwerckynge, and of foresayinge thynges to comme, that so thay same artes may not be usedde of the wyckedde to an euyell end. Thay also concelethe the arte of chaunges,16 the wey of wynnynge the facultye of Abrac,17 the skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte wythouten the holpynges of fere and hope; and the universelle longage18 of maçonnes.

QUEST. Wylle he teche me thay same artes?

ANSW. Ye shalle be techedde yff ye be werthye, and able to lerne.

QUEST. Dothe all maçonnes kunne more then odher menne?

ANSW. Not so. Thay only haueth recht and occasyonne more then odher menne to kunne, butt manye doeth fale yn capacity, and manye more doth want industrye, that ys pernecessarye for the gaynynge all kunnynge.

QUEST. Are maçonnes gudder men then odhers?

ANSW. Some Maconnes are not so virtuous as some odher menne; but, yn the most parte, thay be more gude then they would be yf thay war not maconnes.

QUEST. Doth maconnes love eidher odher myghtylye as beeth sayde?

ANSW. Yea verylyche, and yt may not odherwise be: for gude menne and true, kennynge eidher odher to be soche, doeth always love the more as thay be more gude.

Here endethe the questyonnes and awnsweres.

*  *  *

A Glossary to explain the words in larger characters in the foregoing.

  1. Albein, only
  2. Alweys, always
  3. Beithe, both
  4. Commodytye, conveniency
  5. Confrerie, fraternity
  6. Façonnynge, forming
  7. Foresayinge, prophesying
  8. Freres, brethren
  9. Headlye, chiefly
  10. Hem plesethe, they please
  11. Hemselfe, themselves
  12. Her, there, their
  13. Hereynne, therein
  14. Herwyth, with it
  15. Holpynge, beneficial
  16. Kunne, know
  17. Kunnynge, knowledge
  18. Make gudde, are beneficial
  19. Metynges, measures
  20. Middlelonde, Mediterranean
  21. Mote, may
  22. Myghte, power
  23. Occasyonne, opportunity
  24. Odher, other
  25. Onelyche, only
  26. Pernecessarye, absolutely necessary
  27. Preise, honour
  28. Recht, right
  29. Reckenyngs, numbers
  30. Sonderlyche, particularly
  31. Skylle, knowledge
  32. Wacksynge, growing
  33. Werck, operation
  34. Wey, way
  35. Whereas, where
  36. Woned, dwelt
  37. Wunderwerckynge, working miracles
  38. Wylde, savage
  39. Wynnynge, gaining
  40. Ynn, into

*  *  *


  1. John Leylande was appointed by Henry the eighth, at the dissolution of monasteries, to search for, and save such books and records as were valuable among them. He was a man of great labour, and industry.↩︎
  2. His Highnesse, meaning the said King Henry the eighth. Our kings had not then the title of majesty.↩︎
  3. What mote ytt be? That is, what may this mystery of Masonry be? The answer imports, that it consists in natural mathematical, and mechanical knowledge. Some part of which (as appears by what follows) the Masons pretend to have taught the rest of mankind, and some part they still conceal.↩︎
  4. Fyrste menne yn the este, &c. It should seem by this, that Masons believe there were men in the East before Adam, who is called the ffyrste manne of the weste; and that arts, and sciences began in the East. Some authors of great note for learning have been of the same opinion; and it is certain that Europe and Africa (which, in respect to Asia, may be call’d western countries) were wild and savage, long after arts and politeness of manners were in great perfection in China and the Indies.↩︎
  5. The Venetians, &c. In the times of monkish ignorance ’tis no wonder that the Phenicians should be mistaken for the Venetians. Or, perhaps, if the people were not taken one for the other, similitude of sound might deceive the clerk who first took down the examination. The Phenicians were the greatest voyagers among the ancients, and were in Europe thought to be the inventors of letters, which perhaps they brought from the East with other arts.↩︎
  6. Peter Gower. This must be another mistake of the writer. I was puzzled at first to guess who Peter Gower should be, the name being perfectly English; or how a Greek should come by such a name: But as soon as I thought of Pythagoras, I could scarce forbear smiling, to find that philosopher had undergone a metempsychosis he never dreamt of. We need only consider the French pronunciation of his name, Pythagore, that is, Petagore, to conceive how easily such a mistake may be made by an unlearned clerk. That Pythagoras, travelled for knowledge into Egypt, &c., is known to all the learned; and that he was initiated into several different orders of priests, who in those days kept all their learning secret from the vulgar, is as well known. Pythagoras also made every geometrical theorem a secret, and admitted only such to the knowledge of them, as had first undergone a five years silence. He is supposed to be the inventor of the XLVII of the first book of Euclid, for which, in the joy of his heart, ’tis said he sacrificed a hecatomb. He also knew the true system of the world, lately revived by Copernicus; and was certainly a most wonderful man. See his life by DION. HAL.↩︎
  7. Grecia Magna, a part of Italy formerly so called, in which the Greeks had settled a large colony.↩︎
  8. Wyseacre. This word at present signifies simpleton, but formerly had a quite contrary meaning. Weisager in the old Saxon, is philosopher, wise man, or wizard; and having been frequently used ironically, at length came to have a direct meaning in the ironical sense. Thus Duns Scotus, a man fam’d for the subtilty and acuteness of his understanding, has, by the same method of irony, given a general name to modern dunces.↩︎
  9. Groton. Groton is the name of a place in England. The place here meant is Crotona, a city of Grecia Magna, which in the time of Pythagoras was very populous.↩︎
  10. Fryste made. The word made I suppose has a particular meaning among the Masons; perhaps it signifies initiated.↩︎
  11. Maçonnes hauethe communycatedde, &c. This paragraph hath something remarkable in it. It contains a justification of the secrecy so much boasted of by Masons, and so much blamed by others; asserting that they have in all ages discover’d such things as might be useful, and that they conceal such only as would be hurtful either to the world or themselves. What these secrets are we see afterwards.↩︎
  12. The Arts. Agricultura< &c. It seems a bold pretence this of the Masons, that they have taught mankind all these arts. They have their own authority for it; and I know not how we shall disprove them. But what appears most odd is that they reckon religion among the arts.↩︎
  13. Arte of ffyndynge neue artes. The art of inventing arts must certainly be a most useful art. My Lord Bacon’s Novum Organum is an attempt towards somewhat of the same kind. But I much doubt, that if ever the Masons had it, they have now lost it; since so few new arts have been lately invented, and so many are wanted. The idea I have of such an art is, that it must be something proper to be employed in all the sciences generally, as algebra is in numbers, by the help of which new rules of arithmetic are and may be found.↩︎
  14. Preise. It seems the Masons have great regard to the reputation as well as the profit of their Order; since they make it one reason for not divulging an art in common, that it may do honour to the possessors of it. I think in this particular they show too much regard for their own Society, and too little for the rest of mankind.↩︎
  15. Arte of kepynge secrettes. What kind of an art this is, I can by no means imagine. But certainly such an art the Masons must have; for though, as some people suppose, they should have no secrets at all, even that must be a secret, which, being discovered, would expose them to the highest ridicule; and therefore it requires the utmost caution to conceal it.↩︎
  16. Arte of chaunges. I know not what this means, unless it be the transmutation of metals.↩︎
  17. Facultye of Abrac. Here I am utterly in the dark.↩︎
  18. Universelle longage of maçonnes. An universal language has been much desired by the learned of many ages. ’Tis a thing rather to be wished than hop’d for. But it seems the Masons pretend to have such a thing among them. If it be true, I guess it must be something like the language of the Pantomimes among the ancient Romans, who are said to be able, by signs only, to express and deliver any oration intelligibly to men of all nations and languages. A man who has all these arts and advantages is certainly in a condition to be envied: But we are told that this is not the case with all Masons; for though these arts are among them, and all have a right and an opportunity to know them, yet some want capacity, and others industry, to acquire them. However, of all their arts and secrets, that which I most desire to know is, The skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte; and I wish it were communicated to all mankind, since there is nothing more true than the beautiful sentence contained in the last answer, “That the better men are, the more they love one another.” Virtue having in itself something so amiable as to charm the hearts of all that behold it.↩︎