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The accoutrements of an archer
By Toxophilus
From: The New Sporting Magazine
Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 83-86, June 1831.
Part 1 of 3


HAVING in my last letter offered a few observations on the pleasures and advantages of archery as an amusement, I proceed, according to my promise, to a description of the proper Accoutrements of an Archer. I must, however, premise that the only object of these letters being to induce the uninitiated and inexperienced to engage in the practice of archery, I shall confine myself to a mere sketch or outline of the art, and not attempt any thing like a regular treatise. Mr. Waring's useful little manual, and the more elaborate work of Mr. Roberts, have nearly exhausted the subject, and will furnish every information that can be desired.

The Accoutrements of a modern Archer consist of the Bow with its String—the Arrow or Shaft—the Bracer—the Shooting-gloveBelt, and Tassel.

The Bows used in the present day are of two sorts, viz. self-bows and backed bows. Self-bows are such as are composed of one entire piece of wood, and appear to have been the only kind known to the English till about the end of the sixteenth century. Up to that period our bows were almost universally made of foreign yew, the growth of the Italian states, or of some of the countries bordering on the Levant, and imported into England from Venice, at that time the great emporium for all the commodities of the East: British yew was seldom used, being found too knotty and less elastic or quick of cast, than that grown in warmer climates. The relative value of the two sorts of yew may be ascertained from a statute of Queen Elizabeth, which regulates the price of bows, and directs that when a bow of English yew is sold for two shillings, one of foreign yew may be sold for six shillings and eight-pence.

When the use of fire-arms became more general in this country, the enactments and regulations for securing a constant supply of foreign bow-staves soon ceased to he observed, and the bow-makers, after repeated complaints and remonstrances, were obliged to have recourse to woods of native growth for the purposes of their art. These, however, being found upon trial to be in every respect inferior, led to the invention of what are termed backed-bows, which, instead of being, like a self-bow, composed of one piece of wood, consist of two separate pieces, the main part formed of a springy and elastic wood with a slip of ash or some other tough wood glued to it.

Bows are of various lengths, and should always be adapted to the power to be applied in drawing them; ladies' bows are in general about five feet long, but for men they are made from five feet six inches to five feet ten, according to their strength. Most bows, it will be observed, have a mark immediately over the handle, which stows the number of pounds weight it takes suspended to the string, to draw the bow down to the length of the arrow. And this, perhaps, is the best criterion. Fifty pounds is the standard weight, and to draw a bow of sixty pounds requires more than an ordinary degree of strength: ladies' bows are from twenty four pounds to thirty.