A Pivotal Printing of Science and Health

  • Webster Lithgow

This is one in a series of occasional “Historical Moments” articles that offer brief accounts of events of interest in Christian Science history.

August 2021 is the 140th anniversary of the pivotal date in 1881 when the third edition of Science and Health was published at University Press, one of the country’s foremost book publishers.

The third edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

The first two editions had been a mixture of triumph, trouble, and disappointment. Mary B. Glover, as she was then known, self-published the first edition in 1875, having hired a printer in Boston and then struggling page-by-page to correct his many typesetting errors.

She promptly began writing a second edition, to be published in two volumes, including a section to be called “Key to the Scriptures.” Storms within her small organization disrupted work on the book. There were conflicts with a student whom she had appointed publisher. There were litigations prompted by another student, who shortly deserted her and began printing booklets plagiarized from her writings and claiming himself as their author. A new printer made as many typesetting errors as the previous shop.

At some point in 1878, Mrs. Eddy turned to John Wilson of the University Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Wilson was among the most respected book manufacturers of the day, publishing the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name a few. With Wilson’s help, Mrs. Eddy was able to salvage one volume of the second edition. The book came off the press in October with Dr. Asa G. Eddy, her husband, listed as publisher. Her “Key to the Scriptures” was not included in the final version, however.

During 1879-1880, at the same time that Mrs. Eddy was preaching in Boston, forming her church, and founding her college in Lynn and teaching there, she was also hard at work on a third edition of the textbook. In August 1881, University Press published the full, two-volume third edition, expertly typeset and including the “Key to the Scriptures”—a historic turning point for Mary Baker Eddy and her published writings.

This short video tells that story.

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