Ships' ledgers were instituted by regulations established by Admiralty circular letter No. 53 of 21 September 1872. The ledger was to record the full pay and allowance of every officer, man and boy on board, and all necessary particulars as to victualling. The introduction of this system made unnecessary the record and establishment book, the open muster book and the description book.
Ships' ledgers for the period 1878 to 1909 inclusive were, with a very few exceptions, destroyed by fire as a result of enemy action in 1941.