The book has two major sections. The first contains a short biography of William Penn. Penn was a prominent Quaker and founder of the colony later know as Pennsylvania (Penn’s woods—named for his father, who was an admiral in the British navy). Despite his father’s protestations, young William became attached to the pacifist group known as the Quakers. Britain, at that time was highly intolerant of any who did not follow the established church. As a result of governmental persecution, William was imprisoned several times for his faith. During one of his imprisonments Penn wrote much of what is contained in part two of this book.
These proverbs or aphorisms dealt with moral and ethical principles that grew out of Penn’s deep Christian faith. The editor of this edition, Eric K. Taylor, has replaced archaic words to make the text more readable. Penn’s sayings dealt with subjects such as marriage, education, thoughtfulness, fault-finding, care of the needy, virtue, promptness, and popularity.