The Northwestern University Library Accession Records document the growth of the Library's collections over the course of sixty-three years, spanning the careers of seven librarians, and representing the holdings of four successive library spaces. The Accession Records contain lists of the books and other Library materials acquired between December, 1878 and July, 1941. Accessions are listed in chronological order, but especially towards the later ledger books, the chronology is inconsistent. General date spans have been provided for each volume or folder, but there is occasionally chronological variation within them.
Twenty-five custom ledger boxes contain individual bound volumes comprising the first official records of the library's acquisitions. They start with the first number assigned on December 1st, 1878: “Butler, History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky; Cincinnati, 1836” and end with accession number 130500. Marginal notes indicated that the listings were often consulted and were repeatedly updated with notes on the state of the original binding, re-binding, withdrawals, cost replacement, and in many cases, the general physical condition. Donors mentioned in the early volumes include many now well-known Northwestern names. Among the most familiar to the Northwestern community are William Deering, Orrington L. Lunt, Herbert F. Fisk, George Lunt, John Evans, the Hon. John Sherman (Secretary-Treasurer of the United States), Henry S. Noyes, R.S. Foster, and W.H. Rand.
The final three custom ledger cases contain the accession records of the Greenleaf Collection. The ledger books are similar in format to the preceding ledger books in the series; though they do differ in that they frequently detail accessioned books that were printed in the 1600s and include first editions of then promising young writers like Goethe and Hegel. The first volume also contains a handwritten history of the collection. Numbers 3401-4000 in the first volume were mistakenly omitted, so the numbering proceeds from 3400 straight to 4001, but after 5000 the missing 3401-4000 were added.
The six boxes contain unbound accession logs of a similar format to the bound editions, though somewhat abridged, lacking physical descriptions of the books' dimensions and bindings. The unbound logs also differ in that they are type-written, while the bound ledgers contain many examples of beautiful penmanship. The unbound volumes detail accession 130501 through the last number 377,200, which was entered on 25 July, 1941.