The five chapters of this book contain a narrative of two years that William Mylne spent in America, from his own pen in letters to his sister Anne and brother Robert. The letters are accompanied by a summary of the historic events that were taking place around Mylne in the southern colonies and by sketches of his earlier life in Scotland and continental Europe and of his subsequent years spent in Ireland.
The letters deserve to be read without interruption and so footnotes have been used sparingly, mainly to clarify unusual words and explain textual inconsistencies. Further background information about persons, places, and events mentioned in the text, as well as notes of sources, have been collected in an annotated index. Asterisks in the text mark the first occurrence of words included as entries in the index.
Mylne wrote his letters with an eye to economy of words and paper—and so of postal charges. He used capitals within sentences as well as for first words, and his punctuation is irregular and sometimes obliterated by the document’s age. The scripts have been tidied up only just as much as seemed safe against mistakes in meaning but desirable for ease of reading. Most of the paragraph breaks, some sentence breaks, and a number of full stops and commas have been inserted by the editor, but no changes have been made in any of the writers’ spelling or word order. The word sic has been used only where the original is otherwise likely to be thought a printer’s or editor’s muddle. A modern convention has been applied in the use of capitals.
The chance finding of the letters has led me into unexpected areas of research and most interesting travel in the southern states, and also to pleasurable visits to members of the Mylne family over a long period of years. I am most grateful to the Mylnes, initially to Miss Jean Mylne of Great Am well, who first showed me the letters more than fifteen years ago, and later to Captain W. R. J. Mylne and his family, who have permitted me to continue the study and to publish the letters, some of which were deposited many years ago at the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh and the remainder placed recently in the British Architectural Library in London. My thanks are also due to the staffs of those archives for their help.
In the United States in 1980 I was received and assisted by all the libraries and archives named in the list of main sources and the index. Particularly helpful were conversations with Heard Robertson and Ray Rowland in Augusta, John Hemphill in Williamsburg, and Edward C. Papenfuse in Annapolis. My base for work in Washington, including the Library of Congress, was the Smithsonian Institution, Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, by invitation of the curator, Robert Vogel. The travel and research was supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust Fund.