In origin the diary of Bilbo Baggins, telling of his journey to Erebor, which he kept secret in the Shire, showing it only to his adopted heir Frodo. Bilbo took it with him to Rivendell, where he assembled further tales of the Elder Days, and after the end of the War of the Ring Frodo added his own account of events of those times. The final Red Book consisted of five volumes: one volume containing Bilbo's and Frodo's accounts of the end of the Third Age, three red-bound volumes containing Bilbo's 'Translations from the Elvish'1, and an additional volume, added later, containing histories and genealogies of the Shire-folk. The whole was kept in a single red case at Undertowers, the seat of the Fairbairns in the Westmarch of the Shire.
In the Shire, the Red Book was more commonly known as the 'Red Book of Westmarch'; the name 'Red Book of the Periannath' was the usual term in Gondor (where Periannath was used as the Elvish name for the Halflings or Hobbits). The Red Book itself was never taken to Gondor, but at Aragorn's request Peregrin Took had a copy made (the so-called Thain's Book) which he took with him to Minas Tirith. The original Red Book did not survive, but the Thain's Book, and an important copy later made in Gondor by Findegil, became the (of course fictional) historical source of the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
It seems to be implied that Bilbo's 'Translations from the Elvish' was the original source of The Silmarillion (just as the first volume of the Red Book gave rise to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). Though this is never stated explicitly, it seems hard to draw any other conclusion.
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