THE original of the Fiske Notebook is physically both a terror and a marvel; on less than 150 pages in this small leather volume Fiske’s cramped hand recorded three decades of church history. Today its deteriorating paper and ink have made some sections illegible. Without the aid of an earlier generation of patient New England scholars more skilled in seventeenth-century orthography the preparation of the Fiske Notebook for publication would have been impossible. The work of transcribing the Notebook was begun by the antiquarian and historian David Pulsifer a century ago, but the completion of the final third of the manuscript was only achieved in the 1930s under the direction of the Works Progress Administration. Both of these earlier renderings were exact transcriptions of the original, full of abbreviations, archaic usage, and almost totally lacking in punctuation. Although this edition adds some passages formerly untranscribed, the major editorial task has been to prepare a volume intelligible and useful to both scholar and non-scholar. The manuscript Notebook, a microfilm copy of it, and W.P.A.’s typed transcription may be consulted for comparison at the Essex Institute.
Throughout this edition I have silently modernized spelling, expanded abbreviations, added subjects and verbs, and punctuated sentences. To have noted each of these changes would have taxed the typographer’s art and the reader’s patience. Where one or two words remain illegible this is noted by ellipses; $ when an entire passage is involved the number of missing words is indicated in brackets after the ellipses. If the meaning of a word or the transcription seems questionable, it is followed by [?]. Throughout the Notebook Fiske made frequent marginal notes, sometimes as a gloss on the text, sometimes as a commentary on events. These have been incorporated into the text but enclosed in 〈 〉. At this distance it is impossible to determine when these marginal entries were made, but it is obvious in some instances that months had elapsed. The original form of dating entries used by Fiske has been preserved. This form reflects the English refusal to adopt the Gregorian calendar reform and the Puritan aversion to the pagan roots of the names of the days and months; to convert them to the contemporary calendar one need only remember that March began the new year and February was the twelfth month.
Without the aid of the staff of the Essex Institute, particularly Mrs. Dorothy Potter and David Little, the Director of the Institute, the preparation of this volume would have been impossible. Research grants from the University of Massachusetts and the State University of New York added immeasurably to the time and resources necessary for this undertaking.