Of Plymouth Plantation is a classic of early American literature, and the manuscript has a story to rival that of Plymouth itself – captured by the British and lost for decades before it ever was printed for a general audience. Since it first appeared, it has gone through many editions, but in my opinion there is one that stands out above the rest. It’s over a hundred years old, two volumes published in 1912 by The Massachusetts Historical Society. It’s main value isn’t in the text, though that does preserve the original spelling (easier to read than one might expect). It’s in the footnotes, which represent the work of the editor, Worthington C. Ford, a prolific historian and librarian of the time. The notes are invaluable for any serious student of the Pilgrims. They provide valuable context to many things that Bradford wrote. And these aren’t your normal footnotes. You’ll find plenty of places where there are pages of only notes, without any words from Bradford. While this is, of course, missing the research done in the last 100 years, no one since has done better job than Ford.

An original hard copy would probably difficult, if not impossible to find. But thankfully you can find pretty high quality digital versions of these books on the Internet Archive, even including the pull out maps. They have both volume 1 and volume 2. Happy reading!

Update: Since writing this post I’ve bought a leatherbound print-on-demand copy of this edition from an Indian printer. (Volume 1 and Volume 2). I’m enjoying them so far, the only unfortunate thing is that they don’t match, as for some reason they printed one on larger paper than the other. It’s nice to have a resource this useful in print, we’ll see how they hold up over time.

Hat tip to John Kemp and his introduction to William Bradford’s letter book, where I first found this edition mentioned.