For this publication the geographical borders of Boston are defined according to their eighteenth-century limits. Boston, a hilly, treeless peninsula, was bounded on the north by the Charles River, on the west by extensive salt marshes, on the south by a neck of land linking the peninsula to the Roxbury mainland, and on the east by the harbor and mud flats (fig. 8). Five towns, Dorchester, Roxbury, Brookline, Cambridge, and Charlestown, encircled the peninsula on three sides. Craftsmen from surrounding towns, no doubt, produced furniture quite similar to Boston examples. For this reason, only documented pieces of Boston furniture are ascribed to “Boston” in the captions while those with similar characteristics but lacking histories or makers’ marks are identified as “Boston area.”

In the captions signed or labelled examples are identified by the term “made by.” The work of Benjamin Frothingham is further divided by type of documentation: paper label, ink inscription, signature in pencil, or signature in chalk. Attributions are based on well-documented histories or specific stylistic and constructional evidence. Circa dates (designated as “c.”) are used for examples without a precise date of manufacture. The identification of woods is based on visual analysis. The primary wood is listed first, followed by secondary woods and other materials. Different views and details of an object are noted. Complete information is provided only for the primary illustration, usually an overall view. Special caption comments have been contributed by individual authors for certain objects.

All dates appearing in the captions and text are in Old Style, but with January 1 being used as the beginning of the year rather than March 25 for the period before 1752. Thus a date of January 10, 1728/9 becomes January 10, 1729. The original spelling of manuscript material is retained in all quotations; however, superior letters have been brought down to the line. Monetary values before 1750 are listed in Old Tenor; those afterwards are in the devalued currency, Lawful Money.