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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Preface
Preface

BEING fond of the exercife of fhooting the Bow, it has often excited in me a defire of forming fome knowledge with refpect to Archery. The means of attaining information, however, were not obvious, as no comprehenfive treatife on the fubject has appeared during an interval of almoft two centuries and an half. The Toxophilus of Afcham, publifhed in the reign of Henry VIII. cannot be efteemed a fatisfactory account of this art, as it principally regards Archery in England; and as many circumftances of importance in relation to the Bow in foreign nations are omitted. In 1544, the time in which Afcham wrote, the knowledge of the Weftern world was but imperfect; and although fome few American hiftories were written previous to that aera, yet the jealoufy of the Spanifh court, ftudioufly confined within the narroweft limits it was able, all information relating to the newly difcovered continent. The manners and cuftoms of the Eaftern world were almoft equally unknown, as commerce had not at that time opened a familiar intercourfe with the inhabitants of this ifland. Thefe fources of information, therefore, which afford an ample field for the inveftigation of a modern writer, with refpect to Archery, could not have been enjoyed in fo remote a period as that in which Afcham lived.

During the laft century, two works appeared: "The Art of Archery" by Gervas Markham, printed in 1634; and "Wood's Bowman's Glory, anno 1682. The former is nothing more than an abridgement of Afcham's Toxophilus. The latter, as its title page expreffes, is "An account of the many fignal favours vouchfafed to Archers and Archery, by thofe renowned Monarchs, Henry VIII. James, and Charles I." It contains the charter of Henry VIII. given to the Fraternity of St. George—a patent of James I. to the fame Society, for the encouragement of Archery, on the accuftomed grounds near London—and a renewal of the fame patent by Charles I. But the principal part of this little book, is a. defcription of a very pompous meeting, and cavilcade of Archers, under the Duke of Shoreditch, and the Worfhipful Citizens of London, on the 17th of September, 1583. Thefe two effays are at this time extremely rare, and of great value.

Finding the fubject thus neglected, fome fcattered anecdotes which my memory had treafured up in the courfe of ftudy, led me to imagine, that a new felection of facts might prove interefting; and the hiftories of thofe nations which were formerly, and which are at prefent in the continual cuftom of ufing the Bow, as an inftrument of war,—the writings of the Greek and Roman authors, whom experience, as well as report, enabled to relate circumftances with refpect to that weapon, as they found it among the nations their arms had often ftruggled with and fubdued,—promifed to yield many opportunities of collecting materials for an agreeable narrative.

As the fubject itfelf was effentially trifling, the purfuit of the object in view feemed fcarcely worth the trouble neceffary to accomplifh it; particularly as the fads which alone could form the bafis of a plan, were to be drawn from the depths of maffy folios. However, as nothing which related to my favourite diverfion had ever efcaped in the courfe of reading, without particular notice, the foundation of my fcheme, by application, foon enlarged to a confiderable extent.

My own curiofity was fatisfied;—but having received much pleafure and instruction in compleating the tafk prefcribed to myfelf, I was flattered in thinking it would prove an agreeable entertainment to my fellow Archers, if I ventured to produce an Effay for their infpection.

There is a peculiar difficulty in writing on a fubject little treated of by others; and whoever finds an opportunity of compofing on a thefis under fuch a predicament, will foon difcover many unforefeen inconveniences he has to ftruggle with. A critic of the eighteenth century will no doubt be aftonifhed to hear me fay, my fubject is new; for who will imagine any branch of literature to be neglected at this day, whilft Caftalio feems fo abundantly to overflow its margin? This topic, however, feems to have lurked almoft unfeen, not only among the Englifh, but in every part of Europe. Men formerly, perhaps, were contented with the practice of Archery; and as the art in latter ages fell into difufe, no one paid attention to the fubject.

The Afiatic nations have, however, fhewn a more fteady attachment to Archery, and we are told that there are many hifories of that art, and Effays teaching the ufe of the Bow, written in the Perfian language.1

As the Bow, through a feries of ages, has prevailed a favourite weapon in the Eaft, and among people whofe language is highly metaphorical, it is perpetually alluded to in the Eaftern compofitions; and has gained a place among hieroglyphical figures. The Bow is faid to reprefent a king; the Arrow an ambaffador.2 It appears, alfo, from an anecdote related by Plutarch, that the coin of the Perfians was formerly ftamped with the figure of an Archer. For Agefilaus, being fent againft Tiffaphernes into Afia, by the Spartans, Tiffaphernes, in order to engage the attention of that people at home, difpatched a meffenger loaded with gold, to excite the other ftates of Greece to make war againft them: and having fucceeded in his defign, it became neceffary for the Spartans, that Agefilaus fhould be recalled to their affiftance. As he was upon his return, he is faid to have told his friends, that Artaxerxces had driven him from Afia with thirty thoufand Archers, infinuating that he had received a bribe of Perfian money.3

The Bow, the Arrow, the Quiver, the Corytos, are not unufually to be feen on the ancient coins of Greece; and particularly on the Cretan. The Romans feldom ftruck the trophies of Archery on their money; the reafon of which will appear in the following pages; and I am ignorant of any more modern coins, on which thefe infignia have been impreffed.

The fculpture of the Greeks, and the fables which have defcended to us in their writings, confpire to prove the high regard that people fhewed from the Bow and its accompaniments. It is unneceffary, in fupport of this affertion, to relate the hiftories of Apollo, Diana, Cupid, or Hercules; the tales of Abaris,4 or of the Centaurs. Chiron, even to this day retains his place among the figns of Zodiac.

We are not entirely deftitute of facts in England, from which to judge, that the Bow was highly efteemed by our anceftors. But as the arts a few ages back remained in a rude and barbarous ftate; and as that little fkill which was attained in fculpture and painting, was chiefly employed in the decoration of religious buildings, and confequently on facred fubjects, among which allufions to Archery could have no place; we do not perceive fo many permanent traces of this ancient and bloody art tranfmitted to us, as might be expected, when we confider the number of ruins fubfifting at this day, which were erected and ornamented at the time Archery was in its greateft vigour. The teftimony of hiftory, however, clearly demonstrates the partiality which was fhewn to the Bow by our countrymen ; and the value of that weapon in battle, is manifeft, from the havock which the (kill of our Englifh Archers formerly fpread on the continent, againft the Irifh, and againft the Scotch.

What traces of Archery have defcended to us from antiquity; and what remain at prefent in foreign nations, the Effay before us will difplay. I haften, therefore, to my fubject, and forbear to keep the reader in fufpenfe.

I fhall here, however, take occafion to obferve, that had I perfuaded myfelf to have fpent more time on this juvenile production, both the language and arrangement would have been much corrected: in its prefent ftate, it is with diffidence, and with a trembling hand I hold it forth to public view.

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