Although references throughout the text were updated to reflect recent literature, the modest amendments and refinements of archival methods and practices proposed during the past three years have not required me fundamentally to revise my premises.
The first four essays address the four fundamental activities involved in the management of the physical record: selecting an appropriate record from the great volume of evidence, preserving that record against time, describing the record that has been retained, and providing for access and use.
More important even than the generous financial support I received from the Mellon Foundation and NEH is the intellectual support of Francis Bluin and Bill Wallach of the Bentley Library, and of my colleagues in the 1986 Seminar - Chris Baer, Greg Bradsher, Judy Endelman, Avra Michelson and Peter Sigmond - who read and discussed drafts of these papers with me that summer and stimulated me by their own research.
In addition, I would like to thank Helen Samuels and Ed Bridges who read and critiqued drafts in 1986, and Richard Cox who read drafts in 1989.
Of each of these activities I ask whether our present methods are adequate and if not, how they can be adjusted within the practical limitations which cultural repositories face.
Throughout, my audience is the professional, but I do not mean simply those who work in repositories called archives.
Consequently, like Adam naming the creatures of the earth, they frame our conceptual universe and constitute at the same time both our cultural heritage and the record of that heritage.
Increasingly I have felt that this is irresponsible of me, and am glad to be bringing it out for public scrutiny at this time.
In the process, the first four chapters have been substantially rewritten, but the underlying structure of the argument, and its conclusions, have not been affected.
This record of apocryphal events, reflecting historical facts but not bound utterly by them, is a distillation of a once living testimony.
The thematic integrity and size of the oral record, made it possible for a single human mind to comprehend the whole, and to relate it to the next generation in appropriate contexts.