The collection comprises two manuscript volumes bound in leather, relating to the administration and legislation of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. The volumes include copies of statutes and ordinances, perambulations of forest bounds, inquisitions, examples of writs, chapters of regard, and extracts from the forest eyres. Matters such as the status of people living in the forest, felling of trees, hunting of animals, and boundary marks are discussed. Names of places and people associated with the forest are occasionally given. Both volumes are based on earlier forest books, particularly the late-fifteenth century Middleton Forest Book also held at The University of Nottingham, and also transcribe authenticated copies of the public records in London (now held at The National Archives), sent to Nottinghamshire. The identity of the compilers of both volumes is unknown.
The first volume (MS 72/1), containing 147 folios of text and a further c.100 folios of blank pages, begins with the following statement: 'A forest book containing the laws, statutes and ordinances of the forest of Sherwood in the County of Nottingham'. The first 54 folios contain the same material as the Middleton Forest Book and parts of the early-seventeenth century Forest Book in The National Archives (Exchequer KR Accounts Various 534/1). It then goes on to include other material of later date. The latest dated item is dated 1666. The volume is accompanied by four items of correspondence, 1903-1953, relating to its loan to various people for study purposes. It is sometimes known as 'The Carding Forest Book'.
The second volume (MS 72/2) begins with the following statement: 'A book: Concerning the Forest of Sherwood extracted from two old forest books one in the possession of Sir George Savile Bart [this book is now held by Nottinghamshire Archives] and the other of Mr William Watson of Farnsfield [possibly MS 72/1, mentioned above].' The volume is dated 1744 and is written in a single hand of contemporary date. The first 100 pages closely match the first 54 folios of MS 72/1, the Middleton Forest Book and the Exchequer Forest Book. However, it also contains other items suggesting that it was compiled for antiquarian interest rather than working reference. It includes: list of meanings of certain blasts on a hunting horn heard in the forest, terms describing deer and rabbits, descriptions of forest terms and offices, hunting restrictions, plea concerning the Abbey of Rufford, perambulations, and articles. The volume was re-bound, probably in the late eighteenth or early-nineteenth century. At this time, a printed engraving of a deer hunter, published in London in 1782, was inserted at the beginning of the volume.