The Lodge was founded in 1884 by a group of nine brethren: Sir Charles Warren (then a Colonel but later a General), W. Harry Rylands, Robert Freke Gould, the Revd Adolphus F.A. Woodford, Sir Walter Besant, John P. Rylands, Major Sisson C. Pratt, William James Hughan and George W. Speth. All were scholars and some were highly distinguished in the field of Masonic study.
The Lodge's warrant was issued by the United Grand Lodge of England on 28 November 1884 but, because the Master-designate, Brother Warren, had been despatched on a diplomatic and military mission to Africa, it was not until 12 January 1886 that the ceremony of Consecration could be performed.
The founders' objectives were to develop for brethren everywhere an interest in research; to encourage study of the many facets of Freemasonry; to have papers read in the lodge and for them to be open to discussion and, if appropriate, criticism; to attract the attention and to enlist the co‑operation of Masonic scholars in all parts of the world.
By these they established a new style of research into Freemasonry. It ignored baseless conclusions that had been derived from the imaginative writings of earlier authors and, because of this, the lodge came to be regarded as the `authentic school' of Masonic students. Through the members' efforts the works of previous historians came under close scrutiny and much that had formerly been accepted as reliable was rejected.
The founders inaugurated what was to become a comprehensive library and which, in more recent times, has as a matter of convenience been amalgamated with that of the United Grand Lodge of England. [The lodge, however, retains control of its books and documents.] The founders further resolved to publish facsimiles of and to reprint rare and valuable books, manuscripts and papers; much has been done and the work continues.
The name of the lodge, Quatuor Coronati [Latin scholars would prefer 'Quattuor'!], was chosen because of its connection with the craft of the operative stonemason. The `Four Crowned Ones' were martyred on 8 November in AD 302 and were regarded as the patron saints of stonemasons throughout Europe from about 400 to 1600. The installation meeting of the lodge takes place on the second Thursday in November, this being the nearest practicable date to that of their martyrdom.
Since the lodge was formed, membership has been by invitation which is extended only to brethren of any regular Constitution who have made important contributions in the field of Masonic study or who are otherwise distinguished in art, literature or the sciences. [A list of the present members is at page iii.]
The Transactions, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, are published annually and include the papers read at the lodge meetings together with the discussion which they generated. Many others, in as wide a variety as possible, will also appear together with reviews of books of Masonic interest, and questions which have been sent to the editor for answer by him or by the lodge member best qualified on a particular subject. A full set of all the volumes is necessarily a `collector's item' and, when on the market, will be priced accordingly (a four‑figure sum at least!), but all are available for research in the library of the United Grand Lodge of England, and at several other headquarters. Issues of more recent years can sometimes be obtained singly or in short `runs'. An enquiry at QCCC Limited may prove helpful in this respect.
The mention of that organization, whose offices are located within Freemasons' Hall, London, brings us to the Correspondence Circle of the lodge which is described on the next page. For some few years it has been necessary to entrust its administration
to a company, limited by guarantee, consisting of all the full members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge under an elected governing council. Brethren of the Correspondence Circle are associate members of the Company.