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Arab Archery


This unique manuscript, discovered in the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts at Princeton University Library, is the only known treatise available in English on the archery of the medieval Orient. It is considered by Dr. Faris and Dr. Elmer as equal in merit to the nearly contemporary Toxophilus, or the Schole of Shootynge, the chief source of detailed knowledge of early English archery. The manuscript could be used today as a textbook on archery, and is valuable to all students of Arab history and culture and to philologists in a number of fields.

One of its most unusual contributions is its resurrection of an ancient system of finger-reckoning—the ancient Arabic system of conveying numerical values by a highly developed sign language involving the use of only a single hand. Though scholars have suspected that such a medium once existed, its details were completely lost. By its delicate and accurately formed manual postures it is sharply differentiated from the crude gestures which indicate "the nine digits" and some of their more simple combinations by holding up an equal number of fingers.

Each of these rediscovered combinations, used to represent draws of the bow, is illustrated by a sketch.

Another interesting contribution is the solution of the "double nock" problem which has hitherto been one of the most controversial puzzles in archery.