Each entry gives the name of the county in which the property lay, the name of the person alienating it and the person who was to receive it, details of the property and its approximate annual value, and the level of the fine payable, assessed at one third of the annual value. The fines on a particular page are often totalled at the bottom, and there is a term total at the end of each section as well as an overall total at the end of each volume.
In the first volume cross-references are given in the margin to the patent roll (C 66) on which the licence is enrolled, by regnal year and part number. Such cross-references are not given subsequently, although of course the licences continued to be enrolled. Each entry gives as full details of the property as is given in the enrolment of the full licence, and the enrolment gives the same date as the licence entry in the entry book. There are 21 volumes in the main series. Piece 21 is a supplementary volume covering 1611 to 1627; it includes many, perhaps all, of the entries in the volumes in the main series covering the same terms, but gives far less detail than they do.
The series begins in 1571, and the first volume relates to the period before the fines were leased to the Earl of Leicester in 1576; it is therefore a record of the hanaper of Chancery. There were earlier volumes, since the first series of indexes (pieces 22-26) includes what are probably references to fines made as far back as the reign of Henry VIII. Those indexes are to places where property was located, arranged by county and alphabetically within counties. Each entry in them refers to a book number and a folio within it, or to a regnal year of Elizabeth and a folio. The references to regnal years of Elizabeth begin with the end of the thirteenth year, at the beginning of Michaelmas term 1571, exactly when the present series of entry books begins, and the cross-references key up with entries in the entry books. The series of book numbers mentioned runs from 1 to 38, so there once existed a series of 38 entry books recording fines for licences to alienate going back to about 1513-14 and continuing to the end of Elizabeth's reign; they were not, however, identical with the series of entry books in this series because the references do not key up, and they seem from references to them to have contained material other than licences to alienate. Piece 27 is an index which contains some of the same entries as in pieces 22 to 26, but omits the great majority of them and only includes the 'book' references, not those to regnal years, and so cannot be used as a means of reference to pieces 1-21.
The second series of indexes (pieces 28-30) is a later compilation also apparently giving mostly references to the later years of Elizabeth's reign, with references to the early years of James I added in later, and some as late as the reign of Charles II. They do not, however, key up with the entry books, and their date and purpose have been misunderstood in the past; it is still not clear what their purpose is.
The series of entry books ends in 1650, shortly after the execution of Charles I, and the abolition of feudal tenures after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 meant that licences to alienate were not revived.