Did Eddy use Webster’s 1828 dictionary?

April 27, 2020

From time to time we are asked if Mary Baker Eddy owned or used Noah Webster’s first edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828.

We have no evidence connecting Eddy to this first edition of Webster’s landmark dictionary. But we do know that she owned and used later editions. Two copies of Webster’s, now in our collections, were present at her home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, at the time of her passing in 1910—an 1853 printing of the “New and Revised” edition [T1951.0183] and an 1887 printing of the “Unabridged” edition [0.1675].

Eddy used many different dictionaries during her lifetime. For more information see our article What dictionaries did Mary Baker Eddy own?

We are also asked if Eddy owned The Student’s Reference Dictionary. It has been claimed that this was “one of the main source books used in Mrs. Eddy’s writings” and that it was created “from the Webster’s in use when Mrs. Eddy was writing ‘Science and Health.’”1 2 This book is an abridged “New and Revised” edition of Webster’s dictionary, published by Constance Burnham and Dorothy Lehr in 1963. That was many years after Eddy’s passing. 

We do not know which dictionaries Eddy used between 1872 and 1875, while writing the first edition of Science and Health.

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  1. Constance Burnham and Dorothy Lehr, The Students Reference Dictionary (Corvallis, Montana: Keystone Publishers of Montana, 1963).
  2. An advertisement is available in our Non-CSPS collection referring to “The Student’s Reference Dictionary: A compilation of words and their definitions from the Webster’s Dictionary in use when Mary Baker Eddy wrote her books.”