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Home > Books > The Art of Archerie > Chapter XI
Chapter XI
Of the Arrow head, the Invention and several uses.

Necessity the inventer of all goodness (as the best authors affirm) amongst other things, invented the arrow head; first, to save the end from breaking, then made it sharp, that it might stick the better, after made it of strong matter, that it might continue longer, and last of all, experience, and the wisdom of men has brought it to such perfection, that there is not any thing more profitable in all the art of archery, either to wound a mans enemy in the war, or pleasure himself and his friend by hitting the mark at home, as is a right good arrow head, for where the shaft wants an head, it is both useless and without esteem.

Seeing then, the head is of this necessity, it is needful that we apply our best powers in attaining them; heads for the wars of long time, have been made not only of diverse matters, but also of diverse fashions. The Trojans had heads of iron, as this verse spoken of Pandarus shows.

Up to the pappes, his string did he pull, his Shaft to the Iron

The Grecians had heads of brass, as Homer says, Ulysses shafts were headed when he flew Antinous and the other wooers of Penelope, and in another place of Homer it is plain, that when Pandarus wounded Menelaus with his shaft, that the head was not glued on, but tied to the steel with a string, which is also affirmed by the commentaries in Greek, whence I find that archers in those times carried their shafts without heads till they had occasion to use them, and then set them on; which Homer again seconds in the Xxith, Book of his Odysseus where he tells how Penelope brought Ulysses bow amongst her suiters; that he which could bend and draw might be her husband, there (says the Poet) attended on her a maid with a bag full of heads both of iron and brass. The Scythians also used brass heads, the Indians had heads of iron, the Ethiopians made heads of hard, sharp stones, as Herodotus and Pollus affirm. The Germans (as Cornelius Tacitus writes) had their shafts headed with bone, and many countries, both of old time & now, use heads of horn; but to conclude with the truth it self, iron and steel are of all other the most excellent matter on which to make arrow, heads Iulius Pollux raries from us in the appellation of these things, for he calls the feathers the head, & this head that we speak of the point; but the reconcilement is so easy, we need not argue it.

The fashions of heads are as diverse as the matters whereon they have been made. The Ancients (says Pollux) used two sorts of heads, the one he calls , describing it thus, that it had two point or barbs looking backward to the steel, & the feathers which is the fame, which we call here in England a broad arrow head, the other he calls having two points stretched forward, which we call here a forked head; both these kind of heads were used in Homers days, for speaking how Teucer used forked heads, he says thus to Agamemnon.

Eight good shafts have I shot since I came, each one with a forked head

Pandarus and Ulysses used broad arrow heads, Hercules used forked heads, yet such as had three points or forks. The Parthians in that great battle where they slew rich Crassus, and his son, used broad arrow heads, which stuck so sure that the Romans could not pull them out. The Emperor Comodus used forked heads, whose fashion Herodotus does describe most lively; saying, that they were like the shape of a new moon, where with he could cut off the head of a bird, and not touch her body.

But letting pass the customs of the ancients: Our English heads which we customarily use in the wars, are better then either forked heads or broad arrow heads; for first, the end being lighter they fly a great deal faster, and by the same reason give a far more deadly blow, and in my conceit (which is no rule) if the little burb or beards which they have, were taken away they would be far better, for this every man will grant, that a shaft so long as it flies turns, and when it leaves to turn, it leaves to fly any further, and that every thing which enters by a turning and boring fashion, the more flatter it is the worse it enters, as a knife though it be sharp, yet it cannot bore so well as a bodkin; therefore says Aristotle, Nature made very thing round, that should pierce deep; so that I conclude, either the shaft does not turn in flying, or else our flat heads are hindrances to the shafts in entering. Now some may say, that a flat head both makes a greater hole, and sticks much faster: to this I say, that both the reasons are true, yet both insufficient; for first, the lesser the hoe is (if it be deep) the worse it is to heal, and a man when he shoots against his enemy, desires rather that it should enter far, then stick fast; for what remedy is it I pray you, for him that is smitten with a deep wound, to pull out the shaft quickly, except it be to hasten his death; thus heads which make a little hole and deep, are better in the war, then those which make great and shallow though they stick never so fast in.

Iulius Pollux makes mention of certain heads for the war, which carried fire in them, and the Scripture also speaks somewhat to that purpose: Herodotus speaks of a wonderful stratagem done by Xerxes, at what time he besieged the great Tower at Athens, where he made his archers bind their shaft heads about with Towe, and then set it on fire, and so shot them off: which being done by many, set all the places on fire, which were made of any matter that would burn: and besides so dazzled the enemy, that they knew not which way to turn them: but to finish these heads for war, I would wish, that all the head makers in England, would make their sheaf arrow heads more harder pointed then they be, or else as they are now out of use, so they will be without any power to hurt.

Now as concerning heads for pricking, which is one of the main ends of this discourse, they are reduced into diverse kinds, some are blunt heads, some sharp, some both blunt and sharp.

The blunt heads men use, because they find them good to keep a length, and it is true that they keep a length, because a man pulls them no further at one time then at another, for in feeling the plump end always equally, he may loose them, yet in the wind and against the wind, the weather has so much power on the broad end, that no man can keep a certain length truly, with such an head: therefore a blunt head in a calm or down wind, is very good, otherwise, no worse.

A sharp head at the end, without an shoulders (I call that a shoulder, which a mans finger may feel before it come to point of the head) will pierce quickly through a wind; but yet it has two discommodities; the one, that it will keep no length, because no man can pull it at a certainty, but it will come more or less through the want of the shoulder; and also, because men are afraid of the sharp point, for fear of setting it in the bow; The second discommodity is, when it is lighted on the ground, the small point will be ever in the danger of spoiling, which thing of all others, will soonest make a shaft to loose the length.

Now when men perceived that blunt heads were good to keep a length, but naught for a wind; and sharp heads good to pierce a wind with all, but naught to keep a length, the head makers (informed both by the archers and artificers) and wisely weighing the commodities and discommodities of both sorts of heads, Invented new files and other instruments wherewith they brought heads for pricking to such perfection, that in one head they lodged all the excellencies which were in both the other, without any dscommodity at all. These heads they call high rigged crested, or shouldered heads, or silver spoon heads, for a resemblance they have to the knobs upon some silver spoons. These heads are good both to keep a length, and also to perch the weather with all. First, to keep a length with all, because a man may certainly pull it to the shoulder every shot and no further, then to perch a wind with all, because the point from the shoulder forward, breaks the weather as all other sharp things do, so the blunt shoulder serves for a sure length keeping, and the point for passing through a rough and foul weather. And thus much for the matter, shape and choice of heads.

Now touching the setting on of the head, albe it is the office of the Fletcher rather than the archer, yet it is within the compass of your own knowledge, to advise him to set your head full on or close on. Full on, is when the wood is let hard up to the end or stopping of the head, and close, is when there is wood left on every side the shaft to fill the head with all, or when it is neither too little nor too great; if there be any fault in either of these points, the head when it lights on a stone or the hard ground will be in danger of breaking, or some other mischief.

Touching the stopping of heads with lead or any thing else, I shall not need her to speak any thing, because every silver spoon or shouldered head is stopped of it self.

Short heads are better then long, because the long head is worse for the workman to file straight, and more difficult to keep in a true compass every where; again, it is worse for the Fletcher to set on straight; and thirdly, it is always in more danger to be broken. And thus I have done with the particular instruments, I will now proceed to those which be general.

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