What are considered the major editions of “Science and Health”?

November 20, 2022

Leather bound Science and Health laid on a table

Mary Baker Eddy worked on her book Science and Health for decades. She first began to write down her discovery of Christian Science within a few years of the important healing she experienced in 1866. The first edition was published in 1875, and she didn’t make her final edits to it until not long before her passing in 1910.

Eddy made massive revisions to Science and Health over the years. She once explained: 

I have revised SCIENCE AND HEALTH only to give a clearer and fuller expression of its original meaning. Spiritual ideas unfold as we advance. A human perception of divine Science, however limited, must be correct in order to be Science and subject to demonstration. A germ of infinite Truth, though least in the kingdom of heaven, is the higher hope on earth, but it will be rejected and reviled until God prepares the soil for the seed. That which when sown bears immortal fruit, enriches mankind only when it is understood, — hence the many readings given the Scriptures, and the requisite revisions of SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES. (Science and Health, page 361; this paragraph first appeared in the 263rd edition [1903])

What’s an edition…and what’s a “major” edition?

There are 418 numbered editions of Science and Health. But what, exactly, does that mean? The terminology can be confusing, because the printers and publishers of Eddy’s day used the term edition to designate publication. In other words, the term was referencing the printing of the books rather than any change to the content. In the case of Science and Health, each “edition” generally signifies a printing of 1,000 copies.

The edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in use today has been designated the 1910 edition, as this was the last time Eddy made changes prior to her death on December 3 of that year. The last edition to be numbered was the 418th (1906). From then on, until her passing, the printings can be identified by the year listed on the title page.

Eddy did not designate the major editions of Science and Health. The staff in the archives of The Mother Church has developed this list over the decades. We’ve examined the editions, looking for those that represent Eddy’s important revisions to the book’s text. We’ve also taken into account comments Eddy made herself that indicate editions she felt were particularly important.

1875: 1st edition

This volume, titled just Science and Health, was 456 pages long. “Mary Baker Glover” was the author’s name on the title page (she would marry Asa Gilbert Eddy in 1877). Eight chapters, as well as a Preface, comprised this book. The chapter titles were “Natural Science,” “Imposition and Demonstration,” “Spirit and Matter,” “Creation,” “Prayer and Atonement,” “Marriage,” “Physiology,” and “Healing the Sick.” While these titles may seem mostly unfamiliar to readers of the current edition, perusing this first edition gives an indication of how Eddy would continue her work. Many passages remain to this day (though generally in edited form). The book was printed by W.F. Brown & Co. of Boston.

1878: 2nd edition

Now published under the name Mary Baker Glover Eddy (with Asa G. Eddy as publisher), the book was identified as “Vol. II” on the title page, possibly because Eddy wanted the public to consider it in conjunction with the first edition. She had originally planned this edition as a complete revision of her 1875 volume, with additional content. But the printer, Rand, Avery & Co. of Boston, produced copy so filled with errors that only a shorter version could be salvaged. (The book is 167 pages long.) A new chapter, “Metaphysics,” is an early version of what is now known as the platform of Christian Science (found in the current edition on pages 330–340). This is often known as the “Ark Edition” because of the illustration of an ark on its cover.

1881: 3rd edition

This was the first two-volume edition, with a 270-page first volume and a 214-page second volume. It was also the first edition to display the Cross and Crown seal on its cover, although it’s not the same design used on Eddy’s publications today. For more on this topic, see the Library’s article “The history of the Cross and Crown Emblem.”

“Recapitulation,” a new chapter with a series of questions and answers, was added. This was based on “The Science of Man,” a text first copyrighted in 1870, which Eddy had used in teaching her classes. 

This was the first edition of Science and Health printed by University Press, John Wilson and Son, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Wilson’s dedication to quality and service helped produce publications of high typographical quality. When John Wilson retired, his assistant, William Dana Orcutt, then took over at University Press. In 1909, when Orcutt moved to Plimpton Press in Norwood, Massachusetts, Eddy’s publications went with him, and Plimpton continued as her publisher for decades. For more on Orcutt, his relations with Eddy, and her publishers, see his 1950 book Mary Baker Eddy and Her Books, and see our website article “I never doubted’: Mary Baker Eddy and her printers.”

1883: 6th edition

This was also in two volumes (270 and 206 pages, respectively), and was titled Science and Health; with a Key to the Scriptures. This was the first edition to include “Key to the Scriptures,” found at the end of the second volume. At that time, however, the “Key” only contained an early version of what is now the chapter “Glossary” (see pages 579–599 in current edition). In this chapter Eddy published the fruits of her long-term study of the spiritual meanings of biblical and other terms.

1886: 16th edition

In this edition Science and Health returned to a single-volume format. “Key to the Scriptures” was enlarged, with the addition of three chapters. “Genesis” and “The Apocalypse” were new to the book, and “Prayer and Atonement” was moved into the “Key.” (“Prayer and Atonement” would later move out of the “Key” and be divided into two chapters.) The edition was 590 pages long, including the 38-page index.

The 16th edition was the first to include an index, which provided an important reference tool for readers. (The first concordance for the book was published some years later, in 1903.) This was a detailed index, prepared by Reverend James Henry Wiggin, an ex-Unitarian minister who was an experienced grammarian and index compiler. For about five years, Wiggin would continue to assist Eddy and would also serve (from about 1886 to 1889) as the editor of The Christian Science Journal

1891: 50th edition

This was the first edition to introduce marginal headings, resulting in a format that more closely resembles the current edition. (The headings are actually embedded within the text, rather than in the margins.) “Prayer and Atonement” was divided into two chapters—“Prayer” and “Atonement and Eucharist.” The chapters in this edition are those found in the current edition, with some slight changes in ordering and some minor edits to titles. Another significant change was the replacement of the literary quotations that began each chapter with verses from the Bible. The one exception to this was the chapter “Science of Being,” which still begins with both a Bible quotation and one from German theologian Martin Luther. The 50th edition is 651 pages long, including the 70-page index.

1902: 226th edition

The 700-page book now included the chapter “Fruitage,” with testimonies of healing gained through “the perusal or study of this book.” Line numbering was introduced, and the index was dropped in anticipation of a complete concordance (published the next year). The chapters assumed today’s order, and some of the marginal headings were rewritten. 

The 1907 edition

This included some major changes and additions. Perhaps the most striking was the removal of all but one of the testimonies in “Fruitage.” These were replaced by more recent testimonies, and the book remained at 700 pages. Eddy also made some smaller edits, including changes to “Recapitulation.” 

Additional changes:

  • The Church tenets first made their appearance in the 81st edition, published in 1894. The tenets are found in “Recapitulation,” as the answer to the question “Have Christian Scientists any religious creed?” However, the earliest Church tenets date from the formation of the Church of Christ (Scientist) in 1879, before it was reorganized in 1892 as The First Church of Christ, Scientist.
  • Two major changes in chapter titles appeared in late 1910. “Christian Science and Spiritualism” became “Christian Science versus Spiritualism,” and the chapter titled “Animal Magnetism” was changed to “Animal Magnetism Unmasked.”
  • Late in 1910, the last year of her life, Eddy requested that her picture be removed as the frontispiece.
  • The 1910 edition, still used today, incorporates all of Eddy’s final revisions, which continued through November 1910. It was first published in 1911, after her passing. The article on our website “Have changes been made to Science and Health since 1910?” provides more information.
  • Here are links to additional articles on Science and Health on the Library website:

To see listed contents of the major editions of Science and Health, click here.

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