The diaries chiefly concern John Dunlop’s work in the Temperance movement and the earlier entries describe scenes of debauchery in Edinburgh, and visits to police courts. There are also reports on Temperance meetings and notes of conversations with individuals.
In addition to these diaries, there are summaries of some of Dunlop's letters, extracts from his reading, and notes on various subjects. Numerous press-cuttings and other papers, mostly concerning the Temperance movement, have been inserted. It appears (MS.9262, folio 249 verso) that there was a third volume, but this is missing.