Manuscripts and Special Collections


Sylva: "To slowly trace the forest's shady scene" ran from 14th December 2018 -7th April 2019

Foresters and felons, poets and poachers, Sylva uncovered the unusual tales of Nottinghamshire’s woodlands and the people who have worked, lived and been inspired by them.

The word forests conjures up images of places dominated by trees and wilderness, of sylvan nature untouched by the hands of humans. But the reality of forest history is much more complicated. 

Engraving of the Major Oak. Classmark EMSC Oversize Not 468.C56 ROO

Rather than natural woodlands, forests are places dominated by the management of wild and domesticated animals, and by the commercial control of trees. Forests are sites where the competing interests and demands of villagers, aristocrats, farmers and kings have been played out over centuries; but they are also places of myth whose landscapes and legends have provided inspiration to countless artists. 

The exhibition was curated by Professor Charles Watkins of the School of Geography and Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham. Exhibit highlights included a  13th-century roll of Sherwood Forest and a 15th-century translation of documents relating to Sherwood Forest and forest law - which revealed that it was generally forbidden to keep greyhounds in a forest, but mastiffs were allowed so long as they had had three claws or the ball of a forefoot cut off.

The material that was displayed in the exhibition, with the exception of a few loan items, forms part of the collections held by Manuscripts and Special Collections and is available for consultation in the Manuscripts and Special Collections reading room on King's Meadow Campus. Please e-mail to make an appointment to visit.  

Listen again

Lakeside Arts Centre

The exhibition was accompanied by a series of lunchtime talks given by external speakers.

Videorecordings of the talks can be accessed on the facebook page of Lakeside Arts

Exhibition poster

Sylva exhibition poster 

Click on the image above to see a larger version of the poster. 

Exhibition themes

The exhibition boards which were displayed in the Weston Gallery are available to download:

Visitor comments

Really inspired the imagination and made me think differently about the area.

Love the 13th C. roll of Sherwood Forest. Thank you for displaying it. 

Beautifully presented and highly informative. 

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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651