Studio photograph of Gilbert Carpenter, Sr., at the time he was a secretary to Mary Baker Eddy. Oval sepia portrait with the notation “Taken while at Pleasant View in the year 1905. Gilbert C. Carpenter C.S.B. Providence, R.I.” P00440.

 

(Updated June 29, 2022)

Patrons of The Mary Baker Eddy Library may be interested in two compilations of material titled Course in Divinity and General Collectanea and Essays and Other Footprints Left by Mary Baker Eddy. Published by Richard F. Oakes, these have been in wide circulation over the decades and are often known respectively as the “blue book” and the “red book.”

Gilbert Carpenter, Sr. (1869–1959) and his son, Gilbert Carpenter, Jr. (1896–1952) initially published and circulated these volumes. The elder Carpenter served as a secretary to Mary Baker Eddy’ from April 1905 to April 1906. Over the years he and his son collected copies of writings attributed to Eddy and her students, as well as anecdotes of her life. 

Two of the Carpenters’ earliest published compilations were Notes on the Divinity Course Given by Mary Baker Eddy… (1933) and Mary Baker Eddy Her Spiritual Footsteps (1934). Copies were deposited in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress, making them available to the public. V. Valta Parma, the curator of the Rare Book Room, corresponded regularly with Gilbert Carpenter Jr. and helped him to  monitor and control access. Later on, copies of Notes on the Divinity Course were bound and given to Parma to sell to select patrons at the Library of Congress.1

In 1945 the Carpenters started the Carpenter Foundation, an organization intended “to preserve items by and about Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science …; and to make them ever accessible to qualified students throughout the world.”2 The Carpenters controlled this access and determined themselves who was “ready and qualified for the privilege to study our Leader’s [Eddy’s] life in its higher and deeper aspects ….”3 

In order to further the mission of their organization, the Carpenters established the London Unit of the Carpenter Foundation in 1947. It  was managed by Richard Oakes, a Christian Scientist who had befriended and visited the Carpenters in the years before they started their foundation. Oakes was to establish a library of their materials and make them accessible only to “qualified” students.

Although the London Unit was disbanded the following year, the Carpenters continued to send materials to Oakes and Christian Scientists in England. But unbeknownst to the Carpenters, Oakes had established a company designed to publish and sell Carpenter materials to the general public. In 1955 he moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where he eventually published the “blue book” (1958) and “red book” (1959).4

After the deaths of both Carpenters, their longtime secretary, Grace Ross, carried out the work of their foundation. She successfully sued Oakes, who was found to be in breach of his agreement with the Carpenter Foundation. He was ordered to stop publishing and selling both books, to surrender unsold copies to the Carpenter Foundation, and to pay expenses.5

 Ultimately, the costs of legal action against Oakes exhausted the Carpenter Foundation’s funds, and in 1973 Ross negotiated with The Mother Church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist) to acquire its materials. The Carpenter Foundation was officially dissolved in 1984.6

 The Carpenters had made no effort to weed out inauthentic pieces from their collections. And further investigation has revealed that a number of statements in the “blue book” and the “red book” that are attributed to Eddy have proved to be spurious. At the same time, other pieces known to be authentic were transcribed inaccurately.

Given the mix of authentic and inauthentic materials in these books, The Mary Baker Eddy Library invites patrons to contact our Research & References Services with questions about specific items in either book. We will do our best to authenticate materials whenever possible.

 

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  1. “Transcript of interview with Gilbert C. Carpenter, Sr. and Gilbert C. Carpenter, Jr.by the Christian Science Board of Directors”, 2 May 1935, Subject File, Carpenter, Gilbert C. Jr. – Correspondence with The Christian Science Board of Directors, 1931-1950, 1.
  2. “Prospectus of the Carpenter Foundation,” n.d., The Carpenter Foundation, title page.
  3. “Prospectus of The Carpenter Foundation.”
  4. See Carpenter Foundation vs. Oakes, 26 Cal.App.3d 784 (Cal. Ct. App. 1972), https://casetext.com/case/carpenter-foundation-v-oakes.
  5. See Carpenter Foundation vs. Oakes.
  6. See entry for the Foundation in the Historic Corporate Catalog, Rhode Island Department of State:  https://business.sos.ri.gov/CorpWeb/CardSearch/CardSearch.aspx