This volume was first published in 1951, the outcome of a resolution passed by the Conference in 1946 directing the preparation of a volume summarising the constitution and discipline of the Methodist Church. The editors were Harold Spencer and Edwin Finch and the work was frequently referred to, until 1974, by their names. It included the Standing Orders of the Conference, the framework of which had been adopted by the Uniting Conference in 1932, and which had subsequently been increased and modified and were now re-ordered, together with the historic foundation documents of the church and Declarations of the Conference. Four further editions were published between then and 1974, the intervening amendments to Standing Orders being printed in the Minutes of Conference for relevant years. The 6th edition in 1974, being part of the restructuring process, was the work of John C. Hicks and was in a completely changed arrangement and format (allowing for subsequent updating via loose-leaf replacements). Since 1988 Volume 2 (containing all but the Acts of Parliament and historical documents) has been re-issued annually and is also now in electronic form. The volume also contains non-legislative material ordered by the Conference to be published there, e.g. Guidance on Stationing.
There were various earlier codifications of WM laws and usage, a notable early example being A Compendium of the Laws and Regulations of Wesleyan Methodism (1842) by Edmund Grindrod. Of these codifications, John S. Simon's Summary of Methodist Law and Discipline (1896, with several revisions before the 1932 Union) was prepared by order of the Conference as a new edition of the 'Large Minutes' and was accorded official status. Other digests, e.g. William Peirce's The Ecclesiastical Principles and Polity of the Wesleyan Methodists (1868),did not have such official status, although The Constitution and Polity of Wesleyan Methodism by Henry W. 'Williams', first published in 1880, was prepared at the request of the Book Committee.
Equivalent non-WM volumes included the General Rules of the MNC (1800 etc.), A Digest of the Rules, Regulations and Usages of the Bible Christians (1838 etc.), A Handbook of PM Church Principles, History and Polity (1898 etc.) by H.B. Kendall, and The Free Methodist Manual (1899) by Edwin Askew.