Did Mary Baker Eddy write it? Authenticating “Notes by Judge Hanna” on Christ and Christmas

February 22, 2019

Christ and Christmas book

Occasionally we are asked about a document explaining Mary Baker Eddy’s illustrated poem Christ and Christmas. Attributed to Eddy and to Judge Septimus J. Hanna, a prominent early Christian Scientist, it involves notes that Hanna purportedly recorded during meetings between Eddy and painter James F. Gilman, who collaborated with Eddy on the poem’s illustrations.

There is no evidence to indicate that Hanna was present at the meetings between Eddy and Gilman, or that Eddy and Hanna were involved in the authorship of this document. We do not know who wrote it.

Records suggest the document (two to three pages in length) started circulating in the late 1930s. In 1939 the Christian Science Board of Directors asked the archival department of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, if Hanna was present at the meetings between Eddy and Gilman, as well as if the notes attributed to Hanna were authentic.1 Miriam Loveland, Custodian of Records for the church’s archives, replied: “I have found nothing to authenticate the ‘Notes by Judge Hanna’ relating to ‘Christ and Christmas.’ The statement ‘that Judge Hanna was present when Mrs. Eddy gave her instructions to the artist’ is not correct. These instructions were given to the artist during many interviews which took place at intervals over a period of months.”2

In 1964 Lee Z. Johnson, Archivist of the church, echoed Loveland’s observations, adding this in a memo: “Mrs. Eddy gave instructions about Christ and Christmas to the artist in a number of letters and number of interviews…. The evidence in the Archives does not mention Judge Hanna as having been present at any interviews between Mrs. Eddy and Mr. Gilman.” Johnson also mentioned that Vera Barndollar, one of Hanna’s pupils in Christian Science, “said that the interpretation attributed to him was not his.”3

The book Painting a Poem: Mary Baker Eddy and James F. Gilman Illustrate Christ and Christmas (1998)—based on the archives now housed in The Mary Baker Eddy Library—is a source for documented information relating to the writing, illustration, and publication of Christ and Christmas.

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  1. Hazel A. Firth to Loveland, Letter, 28 February 1939, Subject File, Hanna, Septimus J. – Miscellaneous Material
  2. Loveland to Firth, Letter, 1 March 1939, Subject File, Hanna, Septimus J. – Miscellaneous Material
  3. Lee Z. Johnson, “Comments from the files in the Executive Office,” Memorandum, 15 July 1964, Subject File, Eddy, Mary Baker: Writings – Christ and Christmas – General