Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > Isaac Penington's Works > Editor's Introduction to Penington's Works
Penington was a spiritual seeker from early years, but found his desire for a lasting sense of fellowship with God frustrated until in 1658 he became convinced that the Quaker movement was a work of God, and joined Friends. A prolific writer who had already published several books, he became one of the chief advocates, through the printed word, of the Quaker faith. He was imprisoned six times, for refusing to swear, or for attending Friends' meetings, and sometimes on no charge at all; he spent about five years thus confined, which he was said to endure very patiently, though sometimes in danger of his life from illness. He lost his home and much of his estate when relatives brought lawsuits against his family which they could not defend because of their testimony against oath-taking.
He was an active member of Upperside Monthly Meeting (Buckinghamshire) from its founding in 1668 until his death in 1679.
A collection of Isaac Penington's writings was first published in 1681 two years after the author's death, in two volumes of the large folio size common in that era, under the title The works of the long-mournful and sorely distressed Isaac Penington, whom the Lord in His tender mercy, at length visited and relieved by the ministry of that despised people, called Quakers; and in the springings of that light, life and holy power in him, which they had truly and faithfully testified of, and directed his mind to, were these things written, and are now published as a thankful testimony of the goodness of the Lord unto him, and for the benefit of others.
A second edition, printed in four volumes, appeared in 1761, a third edition in 1784, and a fourth in 1861-63.
The first three editions did not contain Penington's letters to individuals. However, a collection of his letters was donated to the Friends' library in London by John Kendall, who also, in 1796, published some of them as a separate book. The collection was added to by John Barclay, who in 1828 published a larger volume of Penington's letters, which overlapped, but did not include all of Kendall's collection. The fourth edition of Penington's works includes the letters published by John Barclay.
This new edition is also to be in 4 volumes. Volume II was published in 1994; volumes III and IV are anticipated to appear in 1995-96. We intend to include all the material contained in earlier collections and some additional items by the same author. Toward this end we have been helped by Joseph Bevan's review of Isaac Penington's writings,1 which in turn makes use of John Whiting's catalogue of Friends's writings.2 These sources record a small number of tracts that were not in previous editions of the Works: those which can be found in the Quaker Collection at Haverford College's Magill Library or the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College are being added to the present edition. Some additional letters are also being included, such as those which appear in Kendall's collection but not in Barclay's, and a few that are incorporated into the text of Bevan's Memoirs of the Life of Isaac Penington.
Although previous editions of Penington's Works arranged his tracts in roughly chronological order, they did not supply dates for most of them. The dates we have added in brackets under the titles of most of the tracts are from Bevan's review.
Bevan's Review is printed as Appendix B in the present volume.
As was often done in Friends books, earlier editions of Isaac Penington's Works began with a series of "testimonies" to the deceased Friend's character and life. The testimonies for Penington by George Fox and Thomas Ellwood are printed in the introductory position in the present volume; Ellwood's testimony incorporates a short autobiographical paper by Penington himself. Testimonies by William Penn, George Whitehead, Samuel Jennings, Thomas Zachary, Ambrose Rigge, Robert Jones, Thomas Everden, Christopher Taylor, Mary Penington, Alexander Parker, and John Penington are printed in Appendix A.
Before Isaac Penington joined Friends in about 1658 he was already a voluminous writer. His published writings from 1648 to 1656 filled more than a thousand pages, but they were not included in previous collections of Penington's works. One of them is included in this volume as Appendix C.
In accord with our effort to clarify chronology, the "Letters" section of each volume contains letters written during the approximate time period of the other writings in the volume. For this reason most of the letters in the first volume of the 1863 edition can be found in Volume II of the new edition; most of the letters in the second volume of the 1863 edition will be printed in Volume III of the new.
Most of the present volume was transcribed from the 1863 (Philadelphia) edition. We have not modernized the language of that edition, except for some very minimal changes in punctuation and in the form of Scripture citations. In items which have not been reprinted since the seventeenth century (in this volume the 1659 paper "To the Parliament, the Army, and all the Well-affected in the Nation," and the pre-Quaker  paper, "A Touchstone or Trial of Faith") spelling has been updated to resemble that of the rest of the volume. Older spellings are retained where they appear in quotations in Joseph Bevan's Review.
EDITOR, Quaker Heritage Press
Fourth Month, 1995
2John Whiting, A Catalogue of Friends's Books; written by many of the people called Quakers, from the beginning or first appearance of the said people, collected for a general service, by J. W. (London, 1708).
The dates in brackets under the titles of tracts are from Joseph Gurney Bevan's Memoirs of the Life of Isaac Penington...[with] a Review of his Writings (London, 1830). In a few cases Bevan has also been followed with regard to which tracts are separate and which are part of one piece.
A few items are included which were not in the 4th Edition. Penington's "Queries and Considerations Proposed to the Cavaliers," was found in Haverford College Library's Quaker Collection. Several letters have been added, either from Bevan's Memoirs or from J. Kendall's published collection, Letters of Isaac Penington (London, 1796). Where Bevan's or Kendall's version differs from that in the Works the former sources have usually been followed, as they seem (in those letters which they include) to be more complete.
We have also included Penington's critique of Lodowick Muggleton's writings, which was not contained in previous editions of the Works.
A new Index has been added.
The typographical errors in the first three volumes, listed as Errata in Volume 4, have been corrected, and the Errata list has accordingly been omitted.
QHP 1863 1 1 14 47 43 80 72 112 101 145 128 177 157 210 187 243 214 276 243 309 272 341 304 374 334 407 364 440 394 473 423 505
QHP 1863 1 1 29 29 49 55 71 79 92 93 131 136 140 147 170 183 200 217 218 237 266 289 287 313 301 328 312 341 332 365 361 397 374 411 388 427 409 451 441 487 456 504
QHP 1863 1 1 19 23 39 45 58 67 99 89 117 111 136 133 156 155 176 177 196 199 213 221 233 243 250 265 270 287 289 309 308 331 327 352 346 374 366 396 384 418 402 440 418 459
QHP 1863 1 1 19 23 39 45 58 67 76 89 96 111 116 133 136 155 155 177 175 199 194 221 213 243 231 265 251 287 271 309 289 331 307 353 327 375 345 397 364 419 382 441 401 463 422 485