THE translation and editing of this manuscript has been a joint enterprise undertaken by two men, one of whom started with great interest in Arabic studies and virtually no knowledge of archery, the other familiar with archery but without special training or experience in the Oriental field. We feel that each of us has helped expand the knowledge and interests of the other, and it is our hope that this book will be read by both kinds of readers, and with similar results.
In the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in Princeton University Library is what appears to be a unique manuscript on archery. As works on sports in this collection are not numerous, this one attracted special attention. Faris thought of publishing the work but was dissuaded by his unfamiliarity with archery either in theory or practice. In 1940, however, he wrote an article on the Garrett Collection for the Princeton University Library Chronicle, and in the course of it referred casually to this manuscript. This article fell into the hands of Elmer, whose interest in archery is well known. He was so eager to have the work made available in English that he offered to supply the technical advice if Faris would do the translation.
We set about the task together, following a theoretical division of labor but actually carrying forward what in all truth proved to be a joint enterprise—for instance Elmer’s technical knowledge frequently furnished the key to difficult linguistic problems, while Faris’s reading of Arabic often gave the answer to technical questions that have intrigued and mystified students of archery for many years.
The manuscript itself comprises 353 pages, 19 x 13.5 cm., with a written surface of 13 x 8 cm. The paper is glazed European of the fifteenth century. Unfortunately the identity of the author remains unknown, although we know from references in the body of the manuscript that he was a North African from Morocco.
Almost the only source of detailed knowledge of early English archery is Toxophilus, or the Schole of Shootynge, which was written by Roger Ascham in 1542 and 1543 and was published in 1544. Arab Archery is nearly contemporary with that famous book—probably preceding it by a few years—and may be considered to be on an equal plane of merit. This ancient Arabic manuscript is the only treatise on the archery of the medieval Orient that has been translated into English. It is thorough and authoritative, evidently the work of an expert bowman. A vast amount of information concerning the long-range artillery, by which one eastern empire after another had been won, is here brought forth into full light after having lain hidden for centuries.
It could be used as a textbook on archery today.
NABIH AMIN FARIS
ROBERT POTTER ELMER