Also known as the Halliwell Manuscript, the Regius Manuscript is a 64 page file containing 794 verses, which appear to have been intended to lay down the moral principles and duties governing masons and stone cutters.
The Regius Manuscript basically highlights the foundation of Freemasonry; moral duties, the art of geometry, good manners, and how to behave in church among other things. It is among the oldest Masonic Manuscripts ever discovered.
The Regius Manuscript was first published in modern English from the medieval version by James Orchard Halliwell in 1840, hence the name Halliwell Manuscript. All this time, it was being referred to as a poem of moral duties.
The author of the Regius Manuscript is unknown, but its contents and phrases suggest that it may have been written by one or many scholars or a West England clergyman, a few years before 1534 when the Anglican Church of England was established. It is believed to have been written as a reaction to a 1425 statute outlawing the annual confederacies and congregation of masons.
Looking at its context, style of writing, and even the grammar, the Regius Manuscript may have been written in Shropshirea, a county in the West Midlands of England. The fact that it’s consistent with the abandonment of the Norman language and customs add weight to this argument. In 1361, King Edward III abandoned the Norman language which was being used as the official language in his kingdom at that time.
The original document of the Regius Manuscript was written around 1390. The manuscript has been dated in the first quarter of the 15th century by recent historical studies. In 1670, it earned a mention in the inventory of John Theyer before being kept in the Royal Library of King George II. The King later donated it to the British Museum in 1757, essentially marking the beginning of the British Library
The Regius Manuscript is a poem of moral duties illuminating within a series of 15 articles, basic teachings for the betterment of self and spiritual growth. It is widely believed to have laid the foundation of the principles and teachings of Freemasonry. However, its significance to Freemasonry was not realized until 1840 when Halliwell published it in modern English.
The modern Masonic teachings, which can basically be grouped into five distinct areas of spiritual growth and understanding include: Duty to self (the obligation to grow as individuals for own sake and also for the sake of others), Duty to others (duty to assist others to grow), Basic moral principles (honor, charity, selflessness, love and dedication to duty, and focus on spiritual awareness), and finally the Standards of living (conducting our everyday actions with personal virtue and using everything we have for the improvement of others), have all been borrowed directly from the Regius Manuscript.