Of the Bow-String.
Part 1 of 2
THE String is one of the moft material parts of the Archer's apparatus, as the fafety of the Bow, in a great meafure, depends on the firmnefs of it. The univerfal concuffion and jar, which the fracture of the Bow-firing caufes in the Bow, never fails, either at the moment, to fhatter it in pieces, or to raife fplinters, which, getting more and more deep into the wood, as the Bow is ufed, at length entirely fpoil and ruin the inftrument. The Bows which (as it is termed) "follow the String;" that is, which bend a little inwards, are lefs liable to injury from the breaking of a String, than thofe which are in a ftraight pofition, or which bend backwards; and it is for this reafon fome Archers prefer the Bows of this former defcription.
The Bow-ftrings mentioned by ancient writers, feem to have been made from leather, or thongs cut from frefh hides taken from Bulls, and other kinds of animals. The phrafe, is very common in Homer.
Strings were alfo compofed from the finews of beafts; and on that account are termed, "Nervus"—It was cuftomary, for this purpofe, to felect the finews of feveral of thofe kinds of animals, remarkable for their ftrength or activity; fuch as Bulls, Lions, Stags, &c. and from thofe particular parts of each animal in which their refpective ftrength was conceived to lie. From Bulls, the finews about the back and fhoulders were collected; and from Stags, they took thofe of the legs. Large, as well as fmall ropes were formed of thefe materials, which proved of very great ufe, when applied to the military weapons, and the greater fized engines.
Catgut, prepared from the inteftines of animals, has been made ferviceable for the purpofe we are now fpeaking of, and continues to be ufed at prefent in the eaftern countries. Many of the Bow-ftrings of this fort, are compofed of a number of fmall cords, going the whole length, being bound in two or three places with filk, in order to keep them together. Experience has taught the Archers, that a number of fmall cords thus accumulated in one, proves much ftronger than a fingle one of the fame external dimenfions. Thefe kinds are, however, fometimfes ufed at prefent, but it is probable they were more in requeft formerly. As this fort is fimilar in compofition to the ftrings on the lyre, or* harp, it is more fonorous than any other fpecies. The Scythians, ufing this kind, perhaps, are faid to have amufed themfelves at feafts, by founding their Bow-ftrings, and felt an extraordinary pleafure in thus having their military thoughts awakened.
The natives of America, as well as Afia, have had the method of making. Bow-firings from the finews of animals, and from the inteftines. The Efkimaux Strings appear principally of the former kind.
Hair from the tails of Horfes was formerly manufactured into Bow-ftrings, and appears to have been not an uncommon material for the purpofe. The word, which fignifies that fpecies of ftring, frequently occurs in Homer, and from thence we may infer the antiquityof the practife. This kind is taken notice of likewife by Ovid, in the following lines:—
"At femel intentus nervo levis arcus equino
We learn, that on preffing emergencies,even the hair from the heads of women has been formed into Bow-ftrings; and a temple in Rome was dedicatedto Venus the Bald, on an occafion of this kind. "Praetereundum ne quidemillud eft, quód tanta fide Aquileienfes contraaximium pro Senatu fuerrant, ut funes dc capillis mulierurn facerent, quium deeffent nervi ad fagittas emittendas quod aliquando Romoe dicitur factum. Unde in honorem Matronarum templum Veneri calvae, Senatus dicavit." Jul. Capitolinus, in Maximino.
From an expreffion in Pliny, we may imagine the Orientals made ufe of the hair of the Camel formerly in making Strings, "Camelino arcus intendere Orientis populi fidiffimum."—See Pliny, B. II—49—Vol I. pg. 642.