The measurements of sunspot positions and areas that were published initially by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and subsequently by the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO), as the Greenwich Photo-heliographic Results (GPR), 1874 – 1976, exist in both printed and digital forms. These printed and digital sunspot datasets have been archived in various libraries and data centres. Unfortunately, however, typographic, systematic and isolated errors can be found in the various datasets. The purpose of the present paper is to begin the task of identifying and correcting these errors. In particular, the intention is to provide in one foundational paper all the necessary background information on the original solar observations, their various applications in scientific research, the format of the different digital datasets, the necessary definitions of the quantities measured, and the initial identification of errors in both the printed publications and the digital datasets. Two companion papers address the question of specific identifiable errors; namely, typographic errors in the printed publications, and both isolated and systematic errors in the digital datasets. The existence of two independently prepared digital datasets, which both contain information on sunspot positions and areas, makes it possible to outline a preliminary strategy for the development of an even more accurate digital dataset. Further work is in progress to generate an extremely reliable sunspot digital dataset, based on the programme of solar observations supported for more than a century by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the Royal Greenwich Observatory. This improved dataset should be of value in many future scientific investigations.