THE Reverend Thomas Shepard of Cambridge is no stranger to readers of volumes published by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. When the Society issued Volume 27 of its Publications in 1932, it included the Autobiography of Thomas Shepard, edited by the Society’s then Editor, Allyn Bailey Forbes (pages 343–400). Furthermore, the indices of many of the Society’s volumes contain references to Shepard, indicating that he was a person of concern to the Society over the years. In 1972 Michael McGiffert, now Editor of the William and Mary Quarterly, published God’s Plot: The Paradoxes of Puritan Piety: Being the Autobiography and Journal of Thomas Shepard (University of Massachusetts Press). This edition of the Autobiography differed from that edited by Allyn Forbes in that the spelling and punctuation had been modernized. The Journal had never been previously published.

This left the so-called Confessions1 of Thomas Shepard as the only important work of his still unpublished. This document is Shepard’s record of the public statements of fifty-one of his congregation, made at the time that they joined his church. Perhaps scholars shied away from this manuscript because it is such a calligraphical horror. In any event, this volume will complete the task of presenting to scholars and general readers all the significant work of this distinguished Puritan divine.

The story of how this important Puritan document came to be published in its present form has its bizarre aspects. In 1973 Dr. Bruce Woolley, now at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, approached our late Editor, Walter Muir Whitehill, with a proposal to transcribe the document, in the possession of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, for publication by the Colonial Society. Clifford Kenyon Shipton, then President of the Society, was particularly enthusiastic about this project, and so he and Walter Whitehill gave Dr. Woolley a green light. A short time after this, Professor George Selement, now at Southwest Missouri State University, approached Editor Whitehill with what was essentially the same proposal. Both he and Dr. Woolley had received permission from the New England Historic Genealogical Society to transcribe the document, but neither was aware of the other’s work. Walter Whitehill came up with a characteristic solution—he urged the two to collaborate on the project, perhaps believing that with an undertaking of this difficulty two heads were better than one. Accordingly the two scholars, working together, came up with a transcription of the document.

This was not the end of the matter, however. About a year ago a third scholar, Charles Cohen, of the Department of History at the University of California in Berkeley, called our attention to a third transcription that had been made by Patricia Lee Caldwell as part of her doctoral thesis at Harvard (1978).2 Since the idea of setting up a troika for the project presented too many difficulties, those in charge of it prevailed upon Dr. Cohen to compare the various transcriptions and note variant readings. Dr. Cohen did an extraordinarily thorough job with this, and the result is that his contribution to this volume is a substantial one. It remained to appoint an umpire to make final decisions in cases where the various parties still disagreed on readings. Ralph J. Crandall, the Society’s Recording Secretary and Editor of Publications at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the undersigned undertook this assignment. We compared the disputed readings against the original manuscript and eventually came up with the transcription that appears below.

Like most of the volumes of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts presently nearing publication, this volume owes its inception to our late Editor, Walter Muir Whitehill. Let us hope that he would have approved the completed work as much as he did the idea of publishing it in the first place.

Frederick S. Allis, Jr.

Editor of Publications

87 Mount Vernon Street

Boston, Massachusetts

June 1980