The seventeenth century affords the most restrictive area for American historical study because of the absence of American newspapers, a dependency upon London printers, and the ecclesiastical preoccupation of the literary mind of the Puritans. But, even in the seventeenth century, there are vast reservoirs of virtually unused material. Most of the valuable collections of papers for the period have been published at least in part. The complete publication of the Winthrop Papers now in progress by the Massachusetts Historical Society--at the time of writing this study as far as 1649, the year of the death of John Winthrop, Sr.--is perhaps to date the highlight in the reproduction of the sources for this period. Local records--deeds, local business records, etc.--though not pertaining to this study could shed a great deal of light on early New England local life or entrepreneurial history. Even the great collections, such as the remaining unpublished Winthrop Papers, Winslow Papers, and Miscellaneous Collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society or the voluminous manuscripts of the Massachusetts or Connecticut Archives still present a wealth of fresh material to the enterprising scholar.
The publication of the records of the New England colonies during the last century has greatly facilitated research in the seventeenth century. The inclusion of the Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies in the publication of the Plymouth Colony Records has been of real service, since most of the records of the Commissioners were hastily jotted down, often in shorthand, which makes the original script difficult to read. The Plymouth manuscript records are still in the Plymouth Registry of Deeds, in spite of the efforts to bring them into the Massachusetts Archives. The Massachusetts copy of the Acts of the Commissioners was presumed lost in the fire of 1747, and that of New Haven has also been lost. A very legible copy of the Acts, probably a copy from the original, may be found in the Connecticut Archives ( Conn. Colony Records, Vols. 52-3).