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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter II
Chapter II
Part 4 of 5

Of BOWS.

BOWS were firft conftructed probably from the rough and unformed boughs of trees; but gradual improvements would be added as men became more and more converfant with the knowledge of natural objects. The fimple branch would foon be rendered more convenient by a little cutting, in order to make the curve regular on both fides the center. There is nothing mentioned in the Old Teftament, that I recollect, with refpect to the manner in which Bows were made. Homer, however, relates the method in which the Bow of Pandarus was fafhioned.

He heard, and madly at the motion pleafed,
His polifh'd Bow with hafty rafhnefs feiz'd.
'Twas form'd of horn, and fmooth'd with artful toil,
A mountain goat refign'd the fhining fpoil,
Who, pierc'd long fince, beneath his arrows bled,
The ftately quarry on the clifts lay dead,
And fixteen palms his brows large honours fpread:
The workmen join'd and fhap'd the bended horns,
And beaten gold each taper point adorns.25
Pope's Hom, B. iv. L. 135.

We find, by Herodotus, that it was the cuftom of fome nations to make Bows of reeds, or cane; the Bactri,26 he fays ufed fome of this kind; as did the Indi.27

The practice of ufing reeds, or cane, in making Bows, is at this day common in fome of the eaftern countries, particularly Perfia and India; and, I believe, it is the method ufed among fome of the American favages alfo. But thefe are materials not well adapted to produce a very elaftic and quick weapon; and unlefs made ftrong, and difficult to draw, would have but little effect in projecting the Arrow. Indeed, this is commonly the cafe with almoft all the Bows made ufe of by favages, and thofe other nations who are little acquainted with the ufe of tools.

The moft efteemed Bows of Perfia, it is faid, are made by fattening two pieces, one of horn, the other of wood, on each other, by means of catgut, which is bound tight around the two, from end to end.; by which means they are kept firm together, and cannot flip when the Bow is drawn. After this the Bow is covered with the bark of a tree, which is exceedingly tough and flexible, and upon this fmooth furface they paint various ornamental figures of branches, leaves, birds, and other fanciful decorations, generally intermixing gold and filver coloured pigments among the reft. They then cover the whole with a tranfparent varnifh, which protects it from wet and damp.

In Perfia alfo, Tartary, and in other parts of the eaftern world, the horns of the Antelope are manufactured into Bows many of which are very excellent weapons. They arc generally much fhorter than thofe ufed in this country, feldom exceeding four feet in length. The; two pieces of which thefe inftruments, are made, are joined firmly in the center, and are ufually ornamented with painting and guilding.—Fig. 4, Plate 1, reprefents a Perfian Bow of this kind.

The Otaheite Bows are very long, and confift of one piece only; in the back part of which there is a groove, containing a pretty thick cord. The cord reaches the whole length, and is fattened very ftrongly at each end. This contrivance is found very ferviceable in affifting the ftrength of the Bow, and ads in fome meafure as a fpring.

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