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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter III
Chapter III
Of the figure of the Bow
Part 1 of 4

THE Bows of different nations preferve a very near refemblance to each other; it is evident from the principle upon which they act, that this muft be the cafe.

The firft kind is the Apollo's Bow. It is this we generally fee in the hands of the Grecian warriors, which are delineated in fculpture, and on ancient medals. The figure of it is certainly the moft beautiful and picturefque of any; and perhaps it is for this reafon we fee it fo often reprefented by painters and fculptors. It is compofed of three different parts. The two end pieces, which act as fprings, and a third, into which the other two are fixed. This third piece being between the other, is the part by which the Bow is held, when made Ufe of. The fpringing parts are thick towards the middle, and taper from thence to the points where the ftring is fattened. Thefe points were called , and were often of gold, or filver. The fprings of the Bow are curved, not unlike the horns of fome of the Eaft-Indian Goats; and as we read that the horns of animals were fometimes ufed for thefe parts of the Bow, perhaps the natural figure gave a model for the Bows which were not made of horn. But I am inclined to think, that poets and painters have made thefe inftruments more beautiful than any Bowyer ever attempted, both in figure and all other attributes.

Another fpecies of this weapon is made of one regular curve, having no feparation in the middle. We do not fee this kind often reprefented in the tablets of antiquity, although of the moft natural figure, and of the moft fimple conftruction. The Bows which are at prefent in ufe, and which formerly were ufed in England, are of this fort I mention. Bows on both thefe principles are ufed in favage nations, but the latter is the more common. The Mufeums, and many private collections contain Bows of each fort, which were brought to this country by the feveral navigators who have vifited the Pacific Ocean, and the remote parts of Afia and America. The instruments of this kind made by the inhabitants of Afia, very much refemble thofe of America, and are often of the fame materials.

The modern Bows made in three parts, are generally of elaftic wood. The ends are compofed of fmall pieces, tied together, and fixed in the handle, in the middle. Cane is often the fubftance employed; pieces of which are bound by a very ftrong kind of ligature, fo as to compofe very ftiff, though not very elaftic weapons.

The other forts, compofed of one or two parts,, which go the whole length without any break, are ufually much longer than the former kind. I have feen one, made of dark-coloured clofe-grained wood, having a piece of a different kind inferted in the back of it. This was done by means of a groove and dovetail, in the manner the flides of a common carpenter's rule are fitted in. There was no binding on it, except at the ends, and it feemed to be made with great art, but it was not ftrong. I do not recoiled to have heard what part of the world it came from.

The Grecian Bow is faid to have been made in the figure of the Sigma in their alphabet.30 The Bow ufed by the Scythians will pafs under the fame character. And as the practice of Archery was introduced from Scythia into Greece, the Bows of each, perhaps, were not very different from thofe of the other. I have not been able to find any particular relation in what manner the Bows ufed by the Greeks were made, different from thofe of other nations. But by the figures on medals, and elfewhere, they do not appear (when ftrung) to have been very diffimilar to the Scythian, or Maeotian, though writers fpeak of a remarkable incurvation the latter had.31

"He went armed with a crooked Bow, after the
"Maeotian (or Scythian) Fafhion,"

And another Poet fays;—

(Minerva) aimed and fhot with a Maeotian Bow,
"This crooked Bow the God-like Hercules,
"Whofe Arrows, when they flew, would always kill
"Firft ufed,"

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