In 1876 You Could Buy a Robert's First Edition for 75 Cents
by
Stran Trout PRP - Retired

From the 4th Quarter 1999 issue of the National Parliamentarian


A call for an adjournment, or for the question, by members in their seats, is not a motion; as no motion can be made, without rising and addressing the chair, and being announced by the presiding officer."

Henry M. Robert had second thoughts about the statement that appears on page 19 of the first edition of the
Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, and discarded it by the time the second edition went to press.

This is one of many changes made between the first and second editions
, written by a then little known army engineer who is recognized today as the foremost authority on parliamentary law.

Identification of a genuine first edition starts with the cover.  It's the familiar reddish brown with the black stripes, but the first edition has a diamond shape (dingbat) added below the design on the front cover.

Inside, the first edition is unique.  The type face of the first edition is smaller, and there is no number of copies on the title page of the original.  On the back of the title page the statement "Copyright A. D. 1876 by H. M. Robert" is written in old English type.  The printer is indicated at the foot of the page as "Burdick & Armitage Milwaukee."  The publisher is S. C. Griggs & Company of Chicago, whose building had been destroyed in 1868 during the great Chicago fire.

The front and back sections of the first edition were the last to be printed.  At the front are the title page, preface and table of contents.  The final pages start with a table of rules (moved to the front in subsequent editions), a page of corrections, and the index.

Four sheets, from the title page through page 8, and two sheets from page 161 through 164 are printed on inferior paper that will have turned yellow or brown with age.  William J.  Evans in his 1993
National Parliamentarian article indicated that the low grade paper was used from the title page through page 8 and for pages 157 through 176, so there may be some variation among copies of the first edition.  Robert had supplied the higher quality paper used for most of the production, but ran out during the printing of the final parts of the book.

The Preface of the first edition begins with: "There appears to be much needed a work on parliamentary law,..." which was changed to the more readable: "A work on parliamentary law has long been needed,..." in the second edition.  At the end of the preface are the familiar initials "H. M. R." but only the first edition includes the date "December 1875"

The first edition that I reviewed had the original price of "75 cents" written in pencil on the title page, but it is now kept wrapped in acid free paper in the Swem Rare Book Department of William and Mary College.  It's now worth more than 75 cents.   I had to surrender my drivers license and sign an agreement before evan being allowed to look at it.

4,000 copies of the first edition were printed, with 1000 given to well known parliamentarians and educators across the country.  The remaining 3000 copies were sold in just a few months.  On May 20, 1876, the publisher, S. C. Griggs and Company, with no more copies to sell, placed an ad in the
Chicago Daily Journal indicating that a 5th thousand had been printed.  The newspaper ad may be the only reference to this 5th thousand. The type for these copies would have to have been reset, since the original type frames were dismantled after each section of the book was printed. 

The second edition made a number of changes, which, combined with the larger type, added 16 pages expanding the manual from 176 to 192 pages.  The cover design was retained for the first 3000 printed in 1876, but a new cover without the diamond (dingbat) was used for the next printing of 3000 in 1876.

Robert considered the second edition a revision rather than a correction.  In the second edition printings from 1876 to 1879, Robert added the word "revised" after the total number of copies printed on the title page, but discontinued the practice with the 1880 printings.

The second edition had at least 21 printings between 1876 and 1892, each with a unique "number of copies" written on the title page.  Most were published by S. C. Griggs, but a 1888 printing indicated the Baker and Taylor Company of New York as the publisher.  In 1886 the design was removed from the cover and the spine design changed.

In the "Note" to the third edition, published after 1893, Robert indicated that prior to that edition, a total of 145,000 copies of the manual had been printed, making the second edition 141,000 copies.  There are 20 known printings of the third edition.  The final printing indicated that 520,000 copies had been printed to date, for a total of 375,000 between 1893 and 1915.

While his "Pocket Manual" increased in popularity, Robert advanced in army rank.  He began publishing as a Major in 1876, but in 1884, two issues were printed, one indicating  Robert as a Major, and the second as Lt. Colonel.  In 1896 His rank was shown as Colonel, and in 1901 two printings were issued showing his promotion from Colonel to General.

By 1915, with over a half a million copies of the manual in print, Henry M. Robert had become the preeminent authority on Parliamentary Procedure, and felt the need to make major changes and additions to his work.  During the next few years Robert published
Robert's Rules of Order Revised, Parliamentary Practice and Parliamentary Law.   In the 123 years since Robert paid to print his first edition almost five million copies have gone into circulation, and the unknown army major has become one of the most quoted men in modern history.

References:
Banks, Margaret A.,
Robert's Rules of Order: Editions, Reprints, and Competitors, Law Library Journal, Vol 80,  Page 177, 1988
Evans, William J., PRP, "What to Look for in Original
Robert's Rules" The National Parliamentarian, 1993
Patnode, Darwin,
A History of Parliamentary Procedure, 3rd  1982
Robert, Henry M., 
Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, 1st 1876
Robert, Henry M.,  Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, 2nd  1876
Robert, Henry M.,  Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, 3rd  1893
Robert, Henry M., III and Evans, William J., Editors,
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 9th 1990
Smedley, Ralph C.,
The Great Peacemaker, 1st 1955


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