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Home > Books > Additional Notes on Arrow Release > Part 1
Additional Notes on Arrow Release
by Edward S. Morse, 1922.
Part 1 of 21

In 1885 I published, in the Proceedings of the Essex Institute, a paper entitled "Ancient and Modern Methods of Arrow Release." From the difficulty I found in ascertaining the various attitudes of the hand in drawing the bow I began to realize that no one had made a study of the subject and that I had made a discovery. PROF. E. B. TYLOR, the distinguised author of "Prehistoric Times," in acknowledging the receipt of a copy of my paper, wrote me as follows: "It is wonderful how much there is to be learned by close examination into points that at first sight do not seem as if they wanted any. I had no idea till I looked at your sketches that there were systematic differences among peoples in their way of discharging their arrows."[1] The main facts, with their illustrations, quickly appeared in Russian, German, Dutch and French reviews and were republished in England and started a number of investigators on the subject. In the Memoir, which has been out of print for some years I asked for information on the subject particularly concerning savage people, as I regarded my work as only a preliminary outline of the subject. As a result of this appeal I received many items and sketches from all parts of the world and now, nearly thirty-five years after, I have compiled this information and the present paper is the result.

Before proceeding further I venture at this point to republish a few figures illustrating the five forms of arrow release [2] given in my first paper on the subject which has long been out of print.

I found the simplest form of release was that which the children of all nations use the world over: that is in grasping the arrow with the thumb and bent forefinger. I have seen the children of Americans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Negroes play with a toy bow and arrow and they all invariably grasp the arrow with the thumb and bent forefinger. It was interesting to discover that some of the lower savage races, like the Ainu, practice this release. The arrow accompanying this release is generally knobbed at the nock end and is gashed or roughened to secure a firmer pinch on the arrow. This I termed the primary release.

In another and higher group of savages such as the Pueblo Indians, the arrow is not only grasped by the thumb and bent forefinger but the second and third fingers are brought to bear upon the string, thus enabling the archer to use a stronger bow. This I termed the secondary release.

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