A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Printed Edition

The Papers of Robert Treat Paine (vols. 1-5) is a selected edition of documents primarily from the Robert Treat Paine collection at the MHS. Covering his public and private lives, the published Papers draws together Paine’s correspondence beginning with his days at Harvard and extending through and beyond his time as a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justice. This collection, which spans almost seven decades, supplies an important documentary record of events leading up to American independence and the formation of national law and policy in the years following. Three of five projected volumes are already published in print.

With the assistance of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant, the Publications Department is currently completing the last two volumes of the five-volume set, with volume 4 (covering 1778-1786) scheduled to debut in fall 2017. The lead editor and scholar of the edition is Edward W. Hanson, who worked alongside the edition’s first editor, Stephen T. Riley. The five-volume edition will include all of RTP’s extant correspondence with family, friends, clients, and fellow lawyers. Selected pieces also provide examples of his allegorical writings, his sermons, his Harvard undergraduate club writings, and his extensive trial notes from his time as attorney general.

Ordering & Availability

Volume 1 (1746-1756) and volume 2 (1757-1774), edited by Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, were published in 1992. Volume 3, edited by Edward W. Hanson, was published in 2005. These volumes can be ordered from the Society's distributor, the University of Virginia Press.

Volumes 4 and 5, also edited by Edward W. Hanson, are forthcoming.

Robert Treat Paine Papers in the Archive

The Paine family donated RTP’s papers to the MHS beginning in the 1940s. To read about the Society's manuscript collections, which encompass many of the Paine documents in the published edition, please visit the Collections web pages. The microfilm edition of the complete Robert Treat Paine Papers includes a detailed Collection Guide with full item listing of the contents of the Robert Treat Paine Papers at the Society and a name index.