Within two generations of the establishment of the Yearly Meeting held in London the need was felt by Friends up and down the country for a digest of the counsel on practice and government which was contained year by year in its epistles and other minutes and documents. In 1738, therefore, the yearly meeting approved such a compilation, issued under the title of Christian and brotherly advices given forth from time to time by the Yearly Meetings in London, alphabetically digested under proper heads - a manuscript volume made available to the clerks of quarterly and monthly meetings.
Additions were circulated to these meetings from time to time during the eighteenth century, but the need for a printed volume was increasingly felt, and in 1782 the text of Christian and brotherly advices was entirely revised and brought up to date, being printed the following year as Extracts from the minutes and advices of the Yearly Meeting of Friends held in London from its first institution. It is pertinent to recall that since that time a revision has been undertaken by the yearly meeting almost once in every generation until the present day, the 1782 Book of extracts (as it was popularly called) being revised in 1801 and a supplement being approved in 1822.
A more substantial revision was undertaken in 1833 and resulted in Rules of discipline printed the following year. Besides substantial alterations in the counsel on practice and government, a long introduction 'On the origin and establishment of our Christian discipline' was written for the occasion by Samuel Tuke, and four extracts were subjoined to the preface 'from approved documents of the Society, issued at different periods, and declaratory of its views, in reference to some of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith'. A supplement to this revision was approved in 1848.
In 1861 a further substantial revision was undertaken. The old alphabetical subject arrangement was abandoned in favour of a more logical order of chapters, which were grouped in three parts, Christian doctrine, Christian practice , and Church government . The doctrinal extracts included as a part of the preface in 1833 were thus supplemented, and the whole incorporated as an integral part of the book.
There was a further revision in 1883 entitled Book of Christian discipline , the last occasion on which the book was revised as a whole and issued in a single volume. The history of subsequent revisions and editions of the three parts of the book is complex, and it is beyond the purpose of this note to enter into all the details, or to relate successive revisions to the changing climate of thought within the Society.
It became increasingly clear in the later nineteenth century that, because of the number and frequency of alterations in the detailed regulations, Church government would need more frequent reissue than the two other parts. Apart from any interim revised editions containing incidental alterations, thorough revisions were approved by London Yearly Meeting in 1906, 1917 and 1931. Christian practice meanwhile had undergone two revisions approved by Yearly Meeting in 1911 and 1925, while the 1883 Part I , Christian doctrine , was substantially revised and re-cast in a form approved by Yearly Meeting 1921, the title being altered to Christian life, faith and thought .
In 1955 Yearly Meeting agreed to the revision of the 1921 Christian life, faith and thought , and the 1925 Christian practice . The revised text was approved by the yearly meeting in 1959 and was printed in one volume entitled Christian faith & practice in the experience of the Society of Friends . Yearly Meeting approved the revision of Advices and queries in 1964 and of Church government in 1967: these were published in a single volume.
In 1986 a committee was appointed to revise both Christian faith & practice and Church government . A draft text was submitted to Yearly Meeting 1994, as Documents in advance volumes 2 and 3. That Yearly Meeting, after making a number of changes and additions to the draft, approved a final text to be published in 1995 under the single title Quaker faith & practice: the book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.