Friends Book Society

Scope and Content

These records reflect the history of the Friends Book Society, founded in 1834. It consists of minute books and two histories of the society. It also includes a small amount of modern material taking the history of the society up to the present day. The minutes reflect the rules of the society and how these have changed over time, the changing membership, the proposal of books, their flow around the membership and their eventual sale.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Friends Book Society was set up in 1834 by 10 members of the Friends Meeting House in Huddersfield. They implemented a number of rules including a limit of no more than 15 members, and fines for non-attendance at meetings and returning books late. The number of Quakers members declined to none until the 1980s. Initially, the society met 4 times per year in member's houses to eat together and choose books which were then purchased and circulated. Meetings dropped to 3 per year in 1873. The circulation list was based on locality, rather than seniority,

There has always been an annual subscription for the society, which was 10 shillings and 6 pence in 1834 and £25 today. Fines for non-attendance and late flow of books were dropped years ago. As a result books take 2-3 years to circulate, and should not be circulated outside the Society's members and partners. An AGM takes place in November each year when accounts are presented to the membership and the annual subscription determined.

At the foundation of the society books were chosen as worthy rather than interesting and so no works of fiction were included. In modern days, 10-20% are fictional and members are free to nominate any book of their choice as long as it has not been previously circulated. This is often based on positive reviews, although occasionally books are leant by members on personal recommendation. Members speak on their nomination and then 24 books per year are chosen, about 8 per meeting. Voting takes place by members placing black and white draughts in corresponding bags. If the colours match it's a vote in favour, if they don't, it's a vote against. The books with the highest votes are 'voted in'. The secretary buys the books from a local bookshop in order to support local trade, and places a circulation list in them. When they have finished circulation they come up for auction at the next meeting. The prosposer is expected to bid at least 25% of the purchase price for it, this used to be 33% and was 50% for most of the last 180 years. Members are not obliged to read the books chosen, although many enjoy reading books outside their personal tastes.

Members host meetings in turn, and this usually means once every four years depending on the number of members. Choice of meeting date and meal is down to the host although they generally take place on a Friday at 7pm, the meeting occurring before the meal. New members can be nominated once a vacancy occurs. If the vacancy is due to the death of an existing member, their partner will be offered it first as their right. If there are more nominees than vacancies, members will be chosen by lot. There have been revisions to the society's rules over the years, namely in 1918 and in the 1980s, and the last review occurred in 2012.

Two histories of the society have been written and can be found in FBS/2.

- Adapted from the 'Introduction to the Friends Book Society' by Jeremy Cuss, Jul 2015.

Access Information

Original available for consultation by appointment

Custodial History

In the custody of the society until deposit with the archive.

Geographical Names