Robert's Rules of Order
is the informal short title of a book containing rules of order
intended to be adopted for use by a deliberative assembly
History and origins
The first edition of the book, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies,
was published in February 1876 by then U.S. Army Major Henry Martyn Robert
(1837–1923) with the short title Robert's Rules of Order
placed on its cover. The procedures prescribed by the book were loosely modeled after those used in the United States House of Representatives
, with such adaptations as Robert saw fit for use in ordinary societies. The author's interest in parliamentary procedure
began in 1863 when he was chosen to preside over a church meeting and, although he accepted the task, felt that he did not have the necessary knowledge of proper procedure. In his later work as an active member of several organizations, he discovered that members from different areas of the country had very different views regarding what the proper parliamentary rules were, and these conflicting views hampered the organizations in their work. He eventually became convinced of the need for a new manual on the subject, one which would enable many organizations to adopt the same set of rules.
The book is designed for use in ordinary societies rather than legislative assemblies, and it is the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States. The book claims to be a "codification of the present-day general parliamentary law (omitting provisions having no application outside legislative bodies). This statement does not imply any approbation on the part of the courts, and the "general parliamentary law" is related neither to statutory legal requirements nor to common-law precedent derived from court judgments. Being widely accepted, and being based for the most part on long-standing traditions of parliamentary procedure, however, the current edition of the book is a reliable reference. Nevertheless, the provisions of any particular manual are not, as a general matter, legally binding upon an assembly that has not formally adopted it as its parliamentary authority; any such manual can at best be cited as "persuasive.
Subsequent editions and versions
Editions published by the original author
Robert himself published several later editions of this book before his death in 1923, the final one of these being a thoroughly revised and expanded book, entitled Robert's Rules of Order Revised
and published in May 1915 (at which time Robert had long been retired from the army, having attained the rank of Brigadier General
Later editions by the Robert's Rules trustees
Through a family trust, and later through the Robert's Rules Association, several subsequent editions of Robert's work have been published, including another major revision of the work, entitled Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
and published in February 1970 (on the 94th anniversary of the publication of the first edition).
The current edition of the series is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
, Tenth Edition (2000) (hardback ISBN 0-7382-0384-X; paperback ISBN 0-7382-0307-6; leatherbound ISBN 0-7382-0923-6). That edition states that it
That book, often referred to using the initialism RONR, is the most widely used parliamentary authority in the United States, according to the National Association of Parliamentarians (an association of approximately 4,000 members which provides education and accreditation certifications for parliamentarians). That association bases its opinions and instruction on RONR.
Other editions and variations
Since the copyrights for several of the original editions have expired, numerous other books and manuals have been published incorporating "Robert's Rules of Order" as part of their titles, some of them based on those earlier editions.
The existence of multiple editions and other variations all published as "Robert's Rules of Order" can sometimes cause confusion, as the various publications may differ in some details. If an organization that has adopted "Robert's Rules of Order" does not wish RONR to be considered its reference authority, it should adopt another version explicitly, as RONR is generally considered by parliamentarians to be the definitive source on the subject.
The next edition of RONR is scheduled to be released in 2011.
Notes and references
Sites providing full text of older editions