The painstaking historian of Belfast, the late George Bentt, devoted a chapter of his well-known "History" to its contents, which he also referred to in his earlier volume, published in 1823. When the Municipal Reform Commissioners took evidence here in 1833, it was submitted for their inspection, together with a second book containing the later minutes, since lost.
Henry Foy, the leading authority on local history, copied a few extracts about the end of the last century ; while Dr. Kirkpatrick, in his work entitled " Presbyterian Loyalty Displayed" printed in 1713, made the first reference to it under the title of " Common Town Book of Belfast." These writers only used such portions as suited their immediate purpose, and gave them, moreover, in a modernized form. The aim of the Editor has therefore been, as far as possible, to give a faithful reproduction of the original, with its solecisms and its peculiarities of spelling and punctuation, some unusual contractions in the earlier portion accepted.
The manuscript consists of four hundred leaves foolscap folio, of which one hundred and thirteen are blank pages. The paper is of excellent quality, with five separate watermarks, some foreign. A court hand is used for the earlier entries, many of which are very illegible in places, increased by the faded colour of the ink. Considerable difficulty was experienced in arranging the entries chronologically, partly because minutes had frequently been entered on blank portions of pages already written on, but mainly because the different sheets were kept loose for many years, and when subsequently discovered by the Marquis of Donegall in an old chest, were further disarranged by F. Bedford, who bound the existing volume.