From the Papers: A major revision of Science and Health

April 11, 2022

From the Mary Baker Eddy Papers April 2022

“New Edition of Science and Health,” The Christian Science Journal. January 1886, 180; portrait of James Henry Wiggin, P01807; circular for the Bureau of Index-Making, 349a.47.069; image of the 16th edition of Science and Health.

Mary Baker Eddy published the 16th edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in February 1886. Considered a major revision of the book, it was announced to the Christian Science field by means of an article in the January 1886 Christian Science Journal.1

The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s collection includes letters and documents related to some of the statements made in that Journal article. We are reproducing the statements here in bold type, followed by discussion of the relevant documents, which the Mary Baker Eddy Papers team has been transcribing and annotating for their website (click on the links in this article to find them there):

“[The 16th edition] is from the University Press, Cambridge, and this is a guaranty for its typographical appearance.”

Scattered references in Eddy’s letters indicate that she had been working on the 16th edition for some months prior to its publication. As noted here, it was published by John Wilson and Son of the University Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our collection contains several invoices Eddy received for their work. In addition, she exchanged letters with the firm in late 1885 and early 1886 regarding the publication date of the new edition, as Christian Scientists who had heard of its availability wanted to purchase it. As was sometimes the case with her publishing projects, Eddy was not patient with what she felt were delays. For example, she wrote to John Wilson on February 15, 1886:

I wish to hear from you on this matter of delay so damaging to me. I request you to tell me why you have taken three weeks to do my work that reasonable judges will say could have been done at your press easily in ten days?…

You are advertising your Press all over the Country as irresponsible in business by your repeatedly breaking your pledges to me as to the time when I should have my books.2

Even after the initial printing of the 16th edition was sold out, Eddy was unhappy that she did not immediately have copies to fulfill numerous orders from individuals and booksellers, or to provide to visitors in Boston. She confided her frustration about this in a March 18 letter to James Henry Wiggin, a retired Unitarian clergyman who was working as a general editor, proofreader, and constructor of indexes:

I want to tell you my difficultis with the Book.

Mr. Wilson promised to have this edition ready on Mond. last — it is now Thursday and not one book! Today have been turning off people who have called for them all day, Strangers in town and wanting them before they left

If I get the books tomorrow I shall have on hand but about 200 copies while I am waiting for the next edition of 1000 Books. Already about 300 copies are sold and not one of the present edition delivered.

The enemy is doing this, I know it, and yet humanity ought to be enough humane as to deal squarer with me

I am getting cross, worne out with this continued conflict, and yet a Communion service that I must attend for my Church next Sunday. O for the sweet peace I so much need3

On the other hand, Wison and Son sometimes pushed back on Eddy’s complaints, as in this letter sent the day after Eddy wrote to Wiggin:

On Mar. 9 (ten days ago) we wrote you that we were printing 500 copies of your work, Science & Health. To=day the binder delivers you 110 copies, & promises the balance of the edition by Monday or Tuesday. At the same time we wrote you that we had ordered paper for 1000 copies. Last night we wrote you that as soon as the paper was received we should go to press with your order of 1000 copies.

What do you mean by saying that we are “bound to win my trade”? It is utterly impossible to put through the work any quicker.4

Despite Eddy’s frustration with these delays, the 16th edition became highly sought after among students of Christian Science, inquirers, and booksellers. She and her secretary Calvin A. Frye received numerous orders.

“All the material of the other editions is herein retained; but all of it has been carefully revised and rewritten by Mrs. Eddy, and greatly improved.”

In many ways, the 16th edition differed from previous editions of Science and Health, although conceptually its theology and metaphysics remained the same. Wiggin’s influence as copy editor was apparent in the new edition, as seen in the smoother flow of Eddy’s sentences. She made many word changes herself that she felt clarified her meaning. For example, the Preface to the first edition had included this statement: “Leaning on the sustaining Infinite with loving trust, the trials of to-day are brief, and to-morrow is big with blessings.” This sentence continued essentially the same through the 15th edition, with a few minor changes. However, in the 16th edition, she dropped “the trials of to-day” and the reference to “to-morrow”: “Leaning on the sustaining Infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”

“The arrangement of the chapters has been changed. One new chapter has been added, on the Apocalypse, giving an exposition of the bearings on Christian Science of the twelfth chapter of Revelation, to which it is believed by Mrs. Eddy to particularly relate.”

Science and Health had contained a “Key to the Scriptures” section since its 6th edition, published in 1883, which contained only one chapter titled “Glossary.” Eddy expanded this section in the 16th edition with additional material: chapters titled “Prayer and Atonement,” “The Apocalypse,” and “Genesis” (moved from its earlier position in a chapter titled “Creation”). Although she eventually moved the material in “Prayer and Atonement” out of the “Key to the Scriptures” section, “Genesis,” “The Apocalypse,” and “Glossary” remain there in the current edition.

“A special feature is a full Index, prepared especially for this edition, by a competent gentleman. In these days no important book has any right to come before the public without a proper Index.”

The index to the 16th edition indicates Eddy’s concern that Science and Health’s  many topics be more conveniently accessible for study. The “competent gentleman” who compiled it was Wiggin. John Wilson had probably recommended him to Eddy. She received a circular in which Wiggin advertised himself as head of the “Bureau of Index-Making”5 and promised potential clients that indexes he constructed would be thorough, comprehensive, and informed by in-depth familiarity with the work to be indexed. After reading the circular, Eddy hired Wiggin to create an index for Science and Health. But his duties for her quickly expanded to also include copy editing her writings and even serving for about two years as editor of the Journal.

Wiggin apparently completed his draft of the index near the end of 1885. On December 29 he wrote of this to Eddy:

Index – the last pp. – went to printer Mon. morn. & I expect proofs any minute. Shall I send them to you, or shall I expedite matters by returning at once to press? I think the latter; as it is understood that the Index is made for you, not by you; & all deficiencies can be laid at my door.6

Wiggin continued to update the index to reflect Eddy’s text changes through the 50th edition, published in 1891, when his work on Science and Health essentially ended. There is some evidence that other people employed by Eddy made subsequent updates to the index, although it is unclear exactly who they were. Beginning with the 226th edition, published in 1902, the index was removed, in anticipation of a complete concordance to Science and Health, compiled by Christian Scientist Albert F. Conant and published in 1903.

“Several minor improvements have been made. Mottoes have been prefixed to each chapter. New Scriptural references have been added, and old ones elaborated. The body of the book is embellished, not only with appropriate poetic quotations, from many authors, but with a few strong prose extracts from noted theologians.”

Eddy thanked Wiggin in a letter for the “learned and convenient treasures” that he had supplied for the book.7 These were apparently the “mottoes and quotations” that the Journal article was referring to, including selections from Eastern religions and contemporary writers. Although grateful to Wiggin for them at the time, she removed most of them from later editions. As the years passed, she increasingly emphasized crucial differences between Christian Science and Eastern thought, and she may have realized that too many quotations from other authors of the time could ultimately give Science and Health a dated air. One example of these “learned treasures” is this passage from the 16th edition, which quotes a poem by Joseph Blanco White (1775–1841), a noted theologian and poet who is little-known today. The passage was featured in the January 1886 issue of the Journal, apparently to increase interest in the new edition of Science and Health:

God is the Life, or Intelligence, that preserves the individuality of men and animals. What availeth it to investigate material life, that ends, even as it began, in nameless nothingness? We gain the only true sense of being, and its continuance, when we awake from this material dream.

How profoundly true are the words of Blanco White, in his sonnet on Night:–

Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew
Thee from report divine, and heard thy name,
Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
This glorious canopy of light and blue?
Yet, ‘neath a curtain of translucent dew,
Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
Hesperus, with the host of heaven came;
And lo, Creation widened in mail’s view!
Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed
Within thy beams, O sun? or who could find,
Whilst fly and leaf and insect stood revealed,
That to such countless orbs thou mad’st us blind?
Why do we then shun Death with anxious strife?
If light can thus deceive, wherefore not life?

Error of thought is reflected in error of action. The constant contemplation of material life hides spiritual Life, and trails our standard in the dust. If Life has any material starting-point, the great I AM is a myth.8

In addition to many orders for the 16th edition, Eddy received letters of gratitude, including news of the beneficial effect it was having on readers’ study and practice of Christian Science. For example, Eddy’s student Isabella A. Beecher wrote from Chicago:

Your revised edition has done me a wonderful amount of good, the short time I have had it. When I read it, it seems just like your voice & your presence teaching me – it impresses me so clearly – you are certainly omnipresent, healing & teaching with the lines you have written.9

Julia S. Bartlett, who had also been taught by Eddy, had this to say: “The revised edition of Science & Health is truly wonderful and so far beyond the others.”10

And Laura E. Sargent, who had studied with Eddy in 1884, 1886, and 1887, wrote from Oconto, Wisconsin:

Have received the new edition of “Science and Health,” and words are inadequate to express our thanks, for the boundless treasures of thought-uplifted, by Divine Love – found therein We know that the demonstration of its teachings will attest the sincerity of our gratitude, and prove the best expression of our love to you. “Christian Science” is so vast, so deep that what little we know seems as a drop in the ocean, compared with what there is yet to learn.11

The 16th edition was by no means Eddy’s last major revision of Science and Health. These would continue to appear periodically until the end of her life in 1910, as she strove to express the vastness and depth of Christian Science in ever clearer language.

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  1. “NEW EDITION OF SCIENCE AND HEALTH,” The Christian Science Journal, January 1886, 180.
  2. Mary Baker Eddy to John Wilson, 15 February 1886, V00929.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy to James Henry Wiggin, 18 March 1886, L02174.
  4. John Wilson and Son to Mary Baker Eddy, 19 March 1866, 954.93a.041.
  5. James Henry Wiggins, “Circular of Bureau of Index-Making,” undated. 349A.47.069.
  6. James Henry Wiggin to Mary Baker Eddy, 29 December 1885, 349A.47.003.
  7. Mary Baker Eddy to James Henry Wiggin, 2 January 1886, L02169.
  8. Mary Baker Eddy, “Light and Night,” The Christian Science Journal, January 1886, 176.
  9. Isabella A. Beecher to Mary Baker Eddy, 17 March 1886, 371.49.035.
  10. Julia S. Bartlett to Mary Baker Eddy, 1 April 1886, 041.14.015.
  11. Laura E. Sargent to Mary Baker Eddy, 12 March 1886, 236.38.011