I noted the basic sources, secondary as well as primary, for the life of Josiah Quincy Junior, in a “Bibliographical Note” at the close in Volume 1 (on pp. 271–73). I neglected to include there the fine essay written by Clifford K. Shipton for John Langdon Sibley, et al., Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, 18 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1873 —), 15:479–91. It is an omission as ironic as it is ungracious, considering that Shipton’s sketch was one of the first places that I went to for background on Quincy, over twenty years ago. The reader will find various points in these volumes where I turned to that collection for information on the Harvard men who played such a decisive role in shaping Revolutionary Massachusetts.

    I listed in that original note the microfilm reels in the Quincy, Wendell, Holmes, and Upham Family Papers pertaining to Josiah Junior. Since then one of Dan Coquillette’s law students and research assistants, Kevin Cox, put together a more detailed listing of what is contained on those reels in an appendix for Volume 2 (pp. 429–37). Readers may also go directly to ABIGAIL, the online catalog for the Massachusetts Historical Society, to see the complete shelf list for all 67 reels, and their relation to the manuscript collection itself at P-347 in the MHS library. Not all of the individual items in that collection were filmed. Only by consulting the bound volumes in the reading room of the MHS library, with their combined alphabetical/chronological entries for individual letters, can readers have a precise sense of what is in the Quincy papers. Even then there is no substitute for searching the collection itself to be certain that something housed at the MHS library is not missed. There is nothing more frustrating in doing research than learning, too late, that something was hiding in plain sight.

    Very early in my career I came to appreciate what the noted author Dee Brown called the importance of serendipitous discoveries in historical research. I made several during my work on Josiah Quincy Junior and they were greatly facilitated by what has only recently been made available through the Internet. I learned a hard lesson about using that resource effectively, when Dan Coquillette wondered out loud in his office at Harvard Law School how to find the source for a particular Quincy quotation. As soon as I returned to my office at BYU I went to what I was sure was the source, could not find it there, checked a few more, then confessed my failure to Dan—all of this in the space of a few days. Dan told me not to worry, that one of his former students—Brian Sheppard, now a law professor in his own right—had googled the lines in question and had pinned down the source, all within a matter of minutes.

    To be honest, most of the passages that Quincy quoted from other writers that had no clear source cited I too found on the Internet—if not by going to Google, then by consulting the online edition of Early American Imprints, often called series one of the Evans collection (for all known copies of books published before 1800 in what became the U.S.) and Eighteenth Century Collections Online (essentially all books published in the British Isles during the 18th century). Both collections are text searchable, putting at a user’s fingertips information that would have required months, if not years, of digging in archives to find a generation ago. Quincy’s Observations can be found in the Evans collection (Boston and Philadelphia printings) and ECCO (Boston and London printings). Quincy’s essays for the Boston Gazette and Boston Evening-Post are text searchable in All of this has been done just in the years since I completed work on the first Quincy volume.

    When I first started on this project I considered Martin Spevack’s massive printed Shakespeare concordance a godsend, a rare gift that made the complicated simple. Spevack’s compilation stands as a remarkable achievement for its time; compared with the ease of “googling” lines from Shakespeare, it now seems quaint indeed. But then I will ask a two-part question in closing that I first posed a few years ago, in completing another book for the Colonial Society of Massachusetts: With printed and even manuscript texts online that can be downloaded and sent as email attachments, will the serendipitous discovery become more common or less? And will research in general become more exacting and more precise, or sloppier because seemingly so simple? I wish I could say; perhaps we will know soon enough.