A word should be said about the method used in collecting and editing the documents. First, with the exception of those from the colonial period, the arrangement is chronological. Since the Catholic missions of the three European powers that sent out colonies from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries are usually treated as separate units, it seemed best to break the chronology in this earlier section and list the entries under the headings of Spain, France, and England. It was also thought preferable to put two or more items on a single person together under the date of the first document rather than to separate them. Most of the material was naturally taken from sources in English, but for that written in foreign languages standard translations were used whenever they were available. In a few cases, however, translations were made either by the editor himself or were supplied to him through the kindness of friends. In the main the documents are printed just as they appear in the original source, although in some instances minor changes have been made either to improve the translations from foreign sources or to insert punctuation in certain English documents in order to clarify the meaning. For each item a single source has been cited in the introductory note, although in some instances the same document may be found in several collections. The translations of papal bulls and encyclicals generally give the student a reference to the official collections of the Holy See where the original may be read in Latin. While reference has frequently been made in the introductory notes to pertinent books and periodicals, no effort has been made to add a formal bibliography with each document. Most of the better books in American Catholic history contain bibliographies, and for all the essential works published up to three years ago the editor's A Guide to American Catholic History (Milwaukee: 1959) will serve the purpose.
The editor is conscious of the fact that some readers may feel the need for more of a commentary than they will find in the introductory notes. An effort was made to supply the necessary background for a proper understanding of each document; nonetheless, a few over-all comments may help to clarify certain matters that recur in a number of the entries. This is especially true where the material touches on ecclesiastical points of a somewhat technical nature that are often not familiar to the lay reader.
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