FROM the very beginning of its existence the Colonial Society of Massachusetts has made one of its major aims the publication of the documentary records of important Massachusetts institutions during the colonial period. Volume 2 of the Society’s publications, Massachusetts Royal Commissions, 1681–1774, started this policy, and over the years it has been continued with five volumes of the records of Harvard College (Volumes 15, 16, 31, 49, and 50); two volumes of Plymouth Church Records (Volumes 22 and 23); two volumes of the Records of the Suffolk County Court, 1671–1680 (Volumes 29 and 30); and three volumes of the Records of the First Church in Boston (Volumes 39, 40, and 41). These two volumes of the Records of Trinity Church, Boston, therefore, continue a tradition of the Society and by adding the records of one of the oldest Anglican churches in the city provide balance to earlier collections.
As with so many of the Society’s present projects, our late Editor of Publications, Walter Muir Whitehill, was a prime mover in this one. Himself an Anglican, he was naturally interested in the early history of Trinity Church. In 1971, at Mr. Whitehill’s suggestion, the Council of the Society voted that the records of Trinity Church be edited for publication by James Bishop Peabody, a close friend of Mr. Whitehill’s. Mr. Peabody immediately began work on the project and had all but completed it at the time of his death in 1978. With almost all the material in galleys, not to finish the job was unthinkable. Fortunately for the Society, its present President, Andrew Oliver, who had had a keen interest in the project since its inception, agreed to complete the work. These two volumes, therefore, represent the combined efforts of Messrs. Peabody and Oliver.
From the start of this project it was decided that the records of Trinity Church should be published in letterpress, following the original documents as closely as possible but omitting editorial comment or annotation. The purpose was simply to make available in print what could otherwise be seen only by obtaining access to a bank’s vaults, where the old record books are kept. The subject matter of these volumes, largely minute books, financial accounts, and vital statistics, appeal primarily to the specialist rather than to the general reader, and with hundreds of names mentioned in the records, it was believed the time and expense required for annotation would be unjustified.
The task, therefore, was to obtain Xerox copies of the records, reduce them to typescript, and then go to press. Under Mr. Peabody’s guidance this was done, but unfortunately, during the long illness preceding his death, much of the typescript was sent to the printer without his having been able to read and correct it, or to establish a consistent practice with respect to the details of transcription. With the bulk of the material in galley proofs, to bring conformity with respect to abbreviations—which to expand and which not, for example—would have required resetting most of the first half of the work. It was therefore determined that where it made no difference to the sense of an entry, it was left as it was set in galleys. Thus “Septr” in the original is sometimes but not always expanded to “September,” “Rev” to “Reverend,” “wch” to “which,” “Yr” or “yor” to “your,” “Honble” to “Honorable” and so forth. There are numerous instances of inconsistencies of this kind throughout these volumes but none of them is of any significance. Spelling and capitalization have been preserved as in the original and vary widely with the different scribes that kept the records from time to time.
Following Mr. Peabody’s death, all of the galleys were closely checked against the Xerox copies of the original records, and except in the case of abbreviations, corrections have been made wherever necessary to make the copy conform to the original. Proper names appear with a wide variety of spelling. In the index an effort is made to group together different spellings of the same name, but the reader must, in some instances, draw his own conclusion as to who was meant by a particular spelling. In many cases the scribe left a blank for a name or part of a name, as though he intended to supply it later. These blanks have been left as in the original. Occasional errors in addition appear in the original financial accounts. These have not been corrected. During the years 1735 to 1750 Old Style dating, in which the year commences on 25 March, was largely used in the original records. This practice has been preserved. The old dating appears on pages 30–113, 523–538, 715–720, and 767–773.
So far as possible the material appears in chronological order, which is not necessarily the order in which it is found in the original records. The scribes must often have accumulated copies of letters and minutes of meetings and then, at a later date, entered them all together, perhaps following the last entry in the book, or sometimes turning the volume over and starting from the back. It was concluded that so long as the original text was adhered to, a chronological order of entries would be most intelligible. Certain documents that are reproduced in the first volume and its appendices were obviously copied into the record book from the originals, and in some instances the copyist made obvious mistakes in his transcription. These mistakes have not been corrected and appear as written in the record books.
These two volumes are numbered and paginated consecutively. The nature of the material, rather than a simple arithmetical division, has determined the contents of each. The first volume, which contains about two-thirds of the records, deals with the minutes of meetings and other church activities. The second volume, which contains the remaining third, consists of Vital Statistics—Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials and Funerals. Because these two volumes are fundamentally different in character, a separate index has been made for each.
Purists may be concerned at some of the editorial inconsistencies in these volumes. We are confident, however, that in no instance has the meaning of the original been lost.
Frederick S. Allis, Jr.
87 Mount Vernon Street