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The Importance of Plot’s Natural History Of Stafford-Shire 1686
The Natural History of Stafford-Shire. By Robert Plot, LLD. Keeper of the Ashmolean Musæum and Professor of Chymistry in the University of Oxford. Ye shall Describe the Land, and bring the Description hither to Me. Joshua 8. v. 6. Oxford printed at the Theatre, Anno M. DC. LXXXVI. (1686).
This volume contains the earliest recorded account of accepted masonry and is considered the most implicit report on the fraternity available for the period at the end of the 17th century. It is printed in paragraphs 85 to 88 inclusive, on pages 316 to 318 of the tome.
This text is referred to as the Plot Abstract. Its importance lies with regard to its content i.e. the summary of the legendary history, the description of contemporary freemasonry, and the criticisms of the fraternity and as to the sources from which Plot may have derived his information, most importantly, what he refers to as the ‘large parchment volum they have amongst them . . .’
The purpose of this article is not to analyse the text and its content but rather to identify and clarify the reasons behind the importance of this volume in the context of Masonic bibliography and history.