MHS News

Winthrop Papers Digital Edition Launches

A rich and critical record of colonial settlement in New England and the events that unfolded in the decades that followed, the Winthrop Papers, held by the Massachusetts Historical Society, are central to the study of American history. 

The MHS announced that the Winthrop Papers Digital Edition is now publicly available online. It comprises the digitized content of the previously published volumes from the Winthrop Papers documentary edition, an ongoing publication of the MHS that began in the 1920s. The digitization was made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as editorial support from Harvard University Press and technical assistance from Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. 

John Winthrop portraitWhen the Arbella arrived off the eastern coast of North America in 1630, she carried on board the earliest colonists of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Among their number was John Winthrop, the first governor of the colony and the patriarch of the Winthrop family in New England. The collection of papers produced by the Winthrop and related families constitutes a rich and critical record of colonial settlement in New England and the events that unfolded in the decades that followed. Beginning in the 16th century, the collection encompasses letters and diaries, memoranda and legal documents, and John Winthrop’s journal/history of the colony in Boston. The Winthrop Family Papers, the largest collection of extant Winthrop documents, is held by the MHS.

"The transcriptions in the Winthrop Papers volumes have been prepared by several generations of historians—historians dedicated to representing with the greatest possible accuracy the content of these fragile manuscripts, many more than 400 years old. We are thrilled that the launch of a freely available digital edition makes it possible for anyone with online access to read these words, effectively listening in on the thoughts and conversations of men and women who were experiencing, day by day, the beginnings of momentous historical changes in North America," commented MHS Director of Publications Ondine Le Blanc. 

Publication of the Winthrop Papers began in 1929 and has resulted in the issuance of six volumes of family correspondence through the year 1653. Under the current editorship of Dr. Francis J. Bremer of Millersville University future publication plans include the continuation of volumes of correspondence that will conclude with the period of the American Revolution and a second series of volumes that will feature other documents organized topically. Five of the six published volumes are currently out of print. The new digital edition will enable scholars and history enthusiasts alike to easily browse and search the published material online. The Winthrop Papers Digital Edition can be accessed at

About the NEH
From 2005 to 2008, the MHS undertook the initial digitization of previously published volumes of the Winthrop Papers and the Adams Papers documentary editions, thanks to grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. 

About the Massachusetts Historical Society
The MHS is one of the nation’s preeminent research centers, with collections that provide an unparalleled record of the vibrant course of American history. Since its founding in 1791, the MHS has fostered research, scholarship, and education. With millions of pages of manuscript letters, diaries, and other documents, as well as early newspapers, broadsides, artifacts, works of art, maps, photographs, and prints, the MHS offers a wide-ranging perspective on the United States from the earliest beginnings of the nation to the present day. Exhibition galleries are open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.


Image: John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts-Bay, Portrait by Charles Osgood, after Anthony Vandyke, 1834. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Published: Tuesday, 3 January, 2017, 12:00 AM