I AM indebted to several people who over the years have helped me edit the Confessions. Darrett B. Rutman, a superb mentor, assisted me when I transcribed the document for a doctoral dissertation at the University of New Hampshire in 1973–1974. That year Anita Rutman taught me how to read early-seventeenth-century script and deciphered many of the nearly illegible words and phrases in Shepard’s crabbed handwriting. Charles E. Clark, William B. Hunter, and Marc L. Schwarz, all members of my doctoral committee, also carefully reviewed the final draft of the dissertation and made valuable suggestions. The staff of the Dimond Library of the University of New Hampshire, particularly Jane Block, Margaret Prescott, Diana Tebbetts, and Hugh Pritchard, aided in many ways. Karen Post, now of East Lansing, Michigan, typed several early drafts of the Confessions and the final dissertation copies. Betty Hindman of Rogersville, Missouri, typed the copies that Bruce and I submitted to the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

George Selement

Springfield, Missouri, July 1980

Solid reason behind the decision of early New England towns to provide payment to the town clerk for his careful, legible hand is confirmed by consideration of what Elizabethan script could look like. The horrors of Thomas Shepard’s crabbed penmanship have protected his notebook containing the confessions of faith of fifty-one applicants to his Cambridge congregation from scholarly review for more than three centuries. A glimpse of this document in published form is available in Charles Henry Pope’s Pioneers of Massachusetts and in other, obscure sources. Unfortunately, neither the quality of these fragment transcriptions nor their internal content is representative of the broad-ranging concerns of applicants to Shepard’s church.

Checkered though the path to publication has been, it is a pleasure to see this particularly rich and detailed primary source in readily usable form at long last. Because of spatial constraints the introduction to this volume provides only an overview of topics and analysis treated in our individual dissertations. In those separate works both George Selement and I dealt extensively with English backgrounds. My own dissertation further explored socio-economic aspects of life in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge. The accidental origin of this cooperative effort has provided the unique opportunity of approaching a difficult project from different angles and learning to work in unison. George Selement deserves much credit for his scholarship, energy, and enlightenment along the way.

Over the years as work on the Shepard Confessions has been reshaped several times, I have incurred many more debts of gratitude than can be acknowledged here. Yet some persons have been especially instrumental. I am continually grateful to my mentor John J. Waters, Jr., for guidance and friendship of many years’ duration. Professors Milton Berman, Perez Zagorin, and Frank Shuffelton of the University of Rochester deserve much special thanks for their learned support. To Stephen LaSalle of Nazareth College I would express sincere appreciation for encouraging my dual administrative/academic interests. Frederick S. Allis, Jr., has inherited a complex task and shepherded it to conclusion. And I join George Selement in thanking Betty Hindman for the talents she has lavished on typing several final copies of the work.

Bruce C. Woolley

Nazareth College, Rochester, New York, July 1980