Mary Baker Eddy’s textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health, was first published in October 1875. This landmark work on healing as Jesus taught laid the foundation for the Christian Science movement to grow into a network of healers and teachers, an international church, and a publishing company. Together with the Bible, the book guides anyone in practicing Christian Science.
This month’s 140th anniversary coincides with The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s current effort to publish Eddy’s letters and manuscripts dating from 1872—the year she started writing Science and Health—through 1880. These annotated documents can be found at the website mbepapers.org and, to recognize the writing and publishing of the first edition, we’re sharing a few of them here.
Printing plates for Science and Health and a first edition of the book by Mary Baker Glover, published by Christian Scientist Publishing Company, Boston, printed by W. F. Brown & Co., Printers, Bromfield Street, Boston, 456 pages. © The Mary Baker Eddy Library
In the months and years leading up to the publication of Science and Health, Eddy worked through repeated frustrations—lost chapters, printing delays and mistakes, disloyal students, and having to frequently move residences. The challenges fatigued but did not deter her, as she wrote in January 1875 to a student who had attended one of her series of classes on Christian Science healing:
I am almost tired to death of so much effort made against me and nothing on the right side to weigh in the scale of Truth for me and the cause
Now go about your own way dear student but do not stand still, make a stir; go to the sick and heal them if they do not send for you Be meek, but dignified in your acts, and work, that is all my resort and I know no other for you.1
Eddy knew that what she was writing in this new book would make its own stir. She included her interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, offering the “spiritual signification” of Jesus’ words. She began, “Harmonious and eternal Principle of man, / Nameless and adorable Intelligence, / Spiritualize man….”2 She would edit her interpretation at least 15 times in subsequent editions of Science and Health.
Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer drafted in the spring of 1875 and published in October of that year on page 295 of the first edition of Science and Health (A12124). Courtesy of The Mary Baker Eddy Collection
She was particularly proud of a section on the rights of women in the chapter titled “Marriage” and wrote this to a student: “What do you say to my introducing myself to my hearers with the chapter on marriage that has some woman’s rights in it and is a finished, almost perfect thing.”3 Impoverished after becoming a widow, separated from her only child against her will, and abandoned by an unfaithful second husband, Eddy spoke from experience when she made this declaration, particularly bold for its time:
If a dissolute husband deserts his wife, it should not follow that the wronged and perchance impoverished woman cannot collect her own wages, or enter into agreements, hold real estate, deposit funds, or surely claim her own offspring free from his right of interference. A want of reciprocity in society is a great want that the selfishness of the world has occasioned….4
Eddy expected her new book to affect change on both micro and macro levels. She expected its sales to help her offer reduced rates for her classes to more people: “My book I trust will enable me to work more gratuitously even than I have done.”5 She expected its truths to help and heal the world, as she wrote in the preface: “…to do good to the upright in heart, and to bless them that curse us, and bear to the sorrowing and the sick consolation and healing, we commit these pages to posterity.”6
Since the first edition, Science and Health—retitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1883—went through more than 400 revisions, ranging from minor changes to major reworkings of the text. Eddy constantly reshaped and refined its message, striving to make her textbook on healing clearer and stronger. One hundred and forty years later it continues to serve.
- Mary Baker Eddy to Samuel Putnam Bancroft, 22 January 1875, V03056.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, 1st ed. (Boston: Christian Scientist Publishing Company, 1875), 295.
- Eddy to Bancroft, January 1875, V03041.
- Eddy, Science and Health, 1st ed., 321-22; for Eddy’s final version, see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston, 1906), 63.
- Eddy to Daniel H. Spofford, 1 February 1875, L07804.
- Eddy, Science and Health, 1st ed., 5.