1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Archery
ARCHERY, the art and practice of shooting with the bow (arcus) and arrow, or with crossbow and bolts. Though these weapons are by no means widely used amongst savage tribes of the present day, their origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. Amongst the great peoples of ancient history the Egyptians were History in war. the first and the most famous of archers, relying on the bow as their principal weapon in war. Their bows were somewhat shorter than a man, and their arrows varied between 2 ft. and 2 ft. 8 in. in length. Here, as elsewhere, flint heads for arrows were by no means rare, but bronze was the usual material employed. The Biblical bow was of reed, wood or horn, and the Israelites used it freely both in war (Gen. xlviii. 22) and in the chase (xxi. 20). The Assyrians also were a nation of archers. Amongst the Greeks of the historic period archery was not much in evidence, in spite of the tradition of Teucer, Ulysses and many other archers of the Iliad and Odyssey. The Cretans, however, supplied Greek armies with the bowmen required. In the “Ten Thousand” figured two hundred Cretan bowmen of Sosias’ corps. Rüstow and Köchly (Geschichte des griechischen Kriegwesens, p. 131) estimate the range of the Cretan bow at eighty to one hundred paces, as compared with the sling-bullet’s forty or fifty, and the javelin’s thirty to forty. The Romans as a nation were, equally with the Greeks, indifferent to archery; in their legions the archer element was furnished by Cretans and Asiatics. On the other hand nearly all Asiatic and derived nations were famous bowmen, from the nations who fought under Xerxes’ banner onwards. The Persian, Scythian and Parthian bow was far more efficient than the Cretan, though the latter was not wanting in the heterogeneous armies of the East. The sagittarii, three thousand strong, who fought in the Pharsalian campaign, were drawn from Crete, Pontus, Syria, &c. But the Roman view of archery was radically altered when the old legionary system perished at Adrianople (A.D. 378). After this time the armies of the empire consisted in great part of horse-archers. Their missiles, we are told, pierced cuirass and shield with ease, and they shot equally well dismounted and at the gallop. These troops, combined with heavy cavalry and themselves not unprovided with armour, played a decisive part in the Roman victories of the age of Belisarius and Narses. The destruction of the Franks at Casilinum (A.D. 554) was practically the work of the horse-archers.
In the main, the nations whose migrations altered the face of Europe were not archers. Only with the Welsh, the Scandinavians, and the peoples in touch with the Eastern empire was the bow a favourite weapon. The edicts of Charlemagne could not succeed in making archery popular in his dominions, and Abbot Ebles, the defender of Paris in 886, is almost the only instance of a skilled archer in the European records of the time. The sagas, on the other hand, have much to say as to the feats of northern heroes with the bow. With English, French and Germans the bow was the weapon of the poorest military classes. The Norman archers, who doubtless preserved the traditions of their Danish ancestors, were in the forefront of William’s line at Hastings (1066), but contemporary evidence points conclusively to the short bow, drawn to the chest, as the weapon used on this occasion. The combat of Bourgtheroulde in 1124 shows that the Normans still combined heavy cavalry and archers as at Hastings. Horse-archers too (contrary to the usual belief) were here employed by the English.
Yet the “Assize of Arms” of 1181 does not mention the bow, and Richard I. was at great pains to procure crossbowmen for the Crusades. The crossbow had from about the 10th century gradually become the principal missile weapon in Europe, in spite of the fact that it was condemned by the Lateran Council of 1139. As early as 1270 in France, and rather later in Spain, the master of the crossbowmen had become a great dignitary, and in Spain the weapon was used by a corps d’élite of men of gentle birth, who, with their gay apparel, were a picturesque feature of continental armies of the period. But the Genoese, Pisans and Venetians were the peoples which employed the crossbow most of all. Many thousand Genoese crossbowmen were present at Creçy.
It was in the Crusades that the crossbow made its reputation, opposing heavier weight and greater accuracy to the missiles of the horse-archers, who invariably constituted the greatest and most important part of the Asiatic armies. So little change in warfare had centuries brought about that a crusading force in 1104 perished at Carrhae, on the same ground and before the same mounted-archer tactics, as the army of Crassus in 55 B.C. But individually the crusading crossbowman was infinitely superior to the Turkish or Egyptian horse-archer.
England, which was to become the country of archers par excellence, long retained the old short bow of Hastings, and the far more efficient crossbow was only used as a rule by mercenaries, such as the celebrated Falkes de Breauté English use. and his men in the reign of John. South Wales, it seems certain, eventually produced the famous long-bow. In Ireland, in Henry II.’s time, Strongbow made great use of Welsh bowmen, whom he mounted for purposes of guerrilla warfare, and eventually the prowess of Welsh archers taught Edward I. the value of the hitherto discredited arm. At Falkirk (q.v.), once for all, the long-bow proved its worth, and thenceforward for centuries it was the principal weapon of English soldiers. By 1339, archers had come to be half of the whole mass of footmen, and later the proportion was greatly increased. In 1360 Edward III. mounted his archers, as Strongbow had done. The long-bow was about 5 ft., and its shaft a cloth-yard long. Shot by a Welsh archer, a shaft had penetrated an oak door (at Abergavenny in 1182) 4 in. thick and the head stood out a hand’s breadth on the inner side. Drawn to the right ear, the bow was naturally capable of long shooting, and in Henry VIII.’s time practice at a less range than one furlong was forbidden. In rapidity it was the equal of the short bow and the superior of the crossbow, which weapon, indeed, it surpassed in all respects. Falkirk, and still more Creçy, Poitiers and Agincourt, made the English archers the most celebrated infantry in Europe, and the kings of England, in whatever else they differed from each other, were, from Edward II. to Henry VIII., at one in the matter of archery. In 1363 Edward III. commanded the general practice of archery on Sundays and holidays, all other sports being forbidden. The provisions of this act were from time to time re-issued, particularly in the well-known act of Henry VIII. The price of bows and arrows was also regulated in the reign of Edward III., and Richard III. ordained that for every ton of certain goods imported ten yew-bows should be imported also, while at the same time long-bows of unusual size were admitted free of duty. In order to prevent the too rapid consumption of yew for bow-staves, bowyers were ordered to make four bows of wych-hazel, ash or elm to one of yew, and only the best and most useful men were allowed to possess yew-bows. Distant and exposed counties were provided for by making bowyers, fletchers, &c., liable (unless freemen of the city of London) to be ordered to any point where their services might be required. In Scotland and Ireland also, considerable attention was paid to archery. In 1478 archery was encouraged in Ireland by statute, and James I. and James IV. of Scotland, in particular, did their best to stimulate the interest of their subjects in the bow, whose powers they had felt in so many battles from Falkirk to Homildon Hill.
The introduction of hand-firearms was naturally fatal to the bow as a warlike weapon, but the conservatism of the English, and the non-professional character of wars waged by them, added to the technical deficiencies of early Decline as weapon. firearms, made the process of change in England very gradual. The mercenary or professional element was naturally the first to adopt the new weapons. At Pont de l’Arche in 1418 the English had “petits canons” (which seem to have been hand guns), and during the latter part of the Hundred Years’ War their use became more and more frequent. The crossbow soon disappeared from the more professional armies of the continent. Charles the Bold had, before the battle of Morat (1476), ten thousand coulevrines à main. But in the hands of local forces the crossbow lingered on, at least in rural France, until about 1630. Its last appearance in war was in the hands of the Chinese at Taku (1860). But the long-bow, an incomparably finer weapon, endured as one of the principal arms of the English soldier until about 1590. Edward IV. entered London after the battle of Barnet with 500 “smokie gunners” (foreign mercenaries), but at that engagement Warwick’s centre consisted solely of bows and bills (1471). The new weapons gradually made their way, but even in 1588, the year of the Armada, the local forces of Devonshire comprised 800 bows to 1600 “shot,” and 800 bills to 800 pikes. But the Armada year saw the last appearance of the English archer, and the same county in 1598 provides neither archers nor billmen, while in the professional army in Ireland these weapons had long given way to musket and caliver, pike and halberd. Archers appeared in civilized warfare as late as 1807, when fifteen hundred “baskiers,” horse-archers, clad in chain armour, fought against Napoleon in Poland.
As a weapon of the chase the bow was in its various forms employed even more than in war. The rise of archery as a sport in England was, of course, a consequence of its military value, which caused it to be so heartily encouraged by all English sovereigns.
The Japanese were from their earliest times great archers, and the bow was the weapon par excellence of their soldiers. The standard length of the bow (usually bamboo) was 7 ft. 6 in., of the arrow 3 ft. to 3 ft. 9 in. Numerous Japan. feats of archery are recorded to have taken place in the “thirty-three span” halls of Kioto and Tokyo, where the archer had to shoot the whole length of a very low corridor, 128 yds. long. Wada Daihachi in the 17th century shot 8133 arrows down the corridor in twenty-four consecutive hours, averaging five shots a minute, and in 1852 a modern archer made 5583 successful shots in twenty hours, or over four a minute.
The Pastime of Archery.—The use of the bow and arrow as a pastime naturally accompanied their use as weapons of war, but when the gun began to supersede the bow the pastime lost its popularity. Charles II., however, History of Sport. and his queen, Catherine of Braganza, interested themselves in English archery, the queen in 1676 presenting a silver badge or shield to the “Marshall of the Fraternity of Archers,” which badge, once the property of the Finsbury Archers, was transferred to the keeping of the Royal Toxophilite Society, when in 1841 the two clubs combined. The Toxophilite Society was founded in 1781; for though in the north archery had long been practised, its resuscitation in the south really dates from the formation of this club by Sir Ashton Lever. This society received the title of “Royal” in 1847, though it had long been patronized by royalty. It is an error to suppose that the Finsbury Archers were connected with the Archers’ division of the Hon. Artillery Company, but many members of the Toxophilite Society joined that division, and used its ground for shooting, securing, however, a London ground of their own in the district where Gower Street, W.C., now is. When this ground became unavailable, the shooting probably took place at Highbury, and later in 1820, on Lord’s cricket ground, the present ground in the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park, near the Botanical Gardens, not being acquired till 1833. The society may be regarded as the most important body connected with archery, most of the leading archers belonging to it, though the Grand National Archery Society controls the public meetings. Among its more important events is the shooting of 144 arrows at 100 yds. for the Crunder Cup and Bugle. In the early days of the club targets of different sizes were used at the different ranges, and the scores were recorded in money (e.g. “Mr Elwin, 86 hits, £5 : 5 : 6”). The Woodmen of Arden can claim an almost equal antiquity, having been founded—some say “revived”— in 1785. The number of members is limited to 80; at one time there were 81, Sir Robert Peel having been elected as a supernumerary by way of compliment. The headquarters of the Woodmen are at Meriden in Warwickshire; the club has a nominal authority over vert and venison, whence its officers bear appropriate names—warden, master-forester and verderers; and the annual meeting is called the Wardmote. The master-forester, or captain for the year, is the maker of the first “gold” at the annual target; he who makes the second is the senior verderer. The club devotes itself to the old-fashioned clout-shooting at long ranges, reckoned by “scores,” nine score meaning 180 yds., and so on. (Vide “Clout-shooting” infra.) The chief matches in which the Woodmen engage are those against the Royal Company of Scottish Archers. The Royal British Bowmen date back to the end of the 18th century. Like many others, during the Napoleonic war they suspended operations, revived when peace was made. The club was finally dissolved in 1880. The Royal Kentish Bowmen were founded in 1785, but did not survive the war. John O’Gaunt’s Bowmen, who still meet at Lancaster, were revived, not created, at the same time, and still flourish. The Herefordshire Bowmen only shoot at 60 yds., while the West Berks Society is limited to twelve members, who meet at each other’s houses, except for their Autumn Handicap, shot on the Toxophilite Grounds— 216 arrows at 100 yds. The Royal Company of Archers is the chief Scottish society. Originally a semi-military body constituted in 1676, it practised archery as a pastime from the time of its foundation, several meetings being held in the first few years of its existence. It devoted itself to “rovers,” or long-range shooting at the “clout,” among its most interesting trophies being the “Musselburgh Arrow,” first shot for in 1603, possibly even earlier, in that town; the competition was then open to all comers, for archery was long popular in Scotland, especially at Kilwinning, the headquarters of popinjay (q.v.) shooting. Other prizes are the “Peebles Silver Arrow,” dating back to 1626, the “Edinburgh Silver Arrow” (1709), the “Selkirk Arrow,” a very ancient prize, the “Dalhousie Sword,” the “Hopetoun Royal Commemoration Prize,” and others, shot for at ranges of 180 or 200 yds. The most curious is the “Goose Medal.” Originally a goose was buried in a butt with only its head visible, and this was the archers’ mark; now a small glass globe is substituted. The “Popingo (Popinjay) Medal,” for which a stuffed parrot was once used as the mark, is now contested at the ordinary butts. The Kilwinning Society of Archers, founded in 1688, did not disband till 1870; the Irvine Toxophilites flourished from 1814 till about 1867. But of all societies the Grand National Archery Society, regulating the great meetings, though comparatively young, is the most important. Various open meetings were already in existence, but in 1844 a few leading archers projected a Grand National Meeting, which was held in York in that year and in 1845 and 1846, and subsequently in other places. But the society did not exist as such till 1861, after the meeting held at Liverpool, since when, notwithstanding some financial troubles, it has been the legislative and managing body of English archery. The chief meetings are the “Championship,” the “Leamington and Midland Counties,” the “Crystal Palace,” the “Grand Western” and the “Grand Northern.” For some years a “Scottish Grand National” was held, but fell into abeyance. The “Scorton Arrow” is no longer shot for in the Yorkshire village of that name, but the meeting, held regularly in the county, dates back to 1673 by record, and is probably far older. The silver arrow and the captaincy are awarded to the man who makes the first gold; the silver bugle and lieutenancy to the first red; the gold medal to most hits, and a horn spoon to the last white.
In the United States archery has had a limited popularity. The only one of the early clubs that lasted long was the “United Bowmen of Philadelphia,” founded in 1828, but defunct in 1859. There was a revival twenty years later, when a National Association was formed; and various meetings were held annually and championships instituted, but there was never any popular enthusiasm for the sport, though it showed signs of increasing favour towards the end of the 19th century. The longer ranges are not greatly favoured by American archers, though at some meetings the regulation “York Round” (vide infra under “Targets”) and the “National” are shot. Other rounds are the “Potomac,” 24 arrows at 80, 24 at 70, and 24 at 60 yds.; the “Double American,” 60 arrows each at 60, 50 and 40 yds.; and the “Double Columbia,” for ladies, 48 each at 50, 40 and 30 yds. In team matches ladies shoot 96 arrows at 50 yds., gentlemen 96 at 60.
The Bow.—As used in the pastime of archery the length of the bows does not vary much, though it bears some relation to the length
The String and Stringing.—The string is made of three strands of hemp, dressed with a preparation of glue, and should be perfectly round, smooth and not frayed, as a broken string may result in a broken bow. The string, at its centre, is 6 in. from the belly of the man’s bow; 5 in. in the lady’s bow. The clenched fist with the thumb upright was the old, rough and ready estimate, known as “fist-mele.” For a few inches above and below the nocking point the string is lapped with carpet-thread to save it from fraying by contact with the arm; the nocking point being made by another lapping of filoselle silk, so that the string may exactly fit the nock of the arrow. When a bow is properly strung the string should be longitudinally along the middle of the belly.
Arrows and Nocking.—The parts of the arrow are the shaft, the “nock” or notch, the “pile” or point, and the feathers. The shaft is made of seasoned red deal, and may be “self” or “footed.” Most arrows are “footed,” i.e. a piece of hard wood to which the pile is attached is spliced to the deal shaft, which should be perfectly straight and stiff. The shaft is made in several shapes. Most archers prefer the “parallel” pattern—the shaft being the same size from nock to pile; the next is the “barrelled,” the shape being thick in the centre and tapering towards the ends. The “bob-tail” diminishes from the pile to the nock; the “chested” tapers from the middle to the pile. The pile should not be taper but cylindrical, “broadshouldered” where the point begins. The nock is cut square. There are three feathers, the body feathers of a turkey or peacock being the best. They should all curve the same way, are about 1½ in. long and ½ in. deep, with the ends near the nock either square, or balloon-shaped. The weight of an arrow is its weight in new English silver; a five-shilling arrow is heavy for a man’s bow, while four-shillings is light. A 28-in. arrow for a 50-℔ bow may weigh four-and-ninepence; a 27-in. arrow four-and-sixpence. This may serve as a rough standard.
Other Implements.—The archer uses finger-tips, or a “tab” of leather, to protect the fingers against the string, and a leather “bracer” to protect the left arm from its blow. Quivers are not now used except by ladies. A special box for carrying bows and arrows about; a proper cupboard, known as an “ascham,” in which they may be kept at home in a dry, even temperature, not too hot; and a baize or leather case for use on the ground, are important minor articles of equipment.
Targets, Scoring and Handicapping.—The targets, 4 ft. in diameter, are made of straw 3 to 4 in. thick, and are supported sloping slightly backwards by an iron stand. The faces are of floor-cloth painted with concentric rings, 44⁄5 in. each in breadth. The outer ring, white, counts one point; the next, black, three; the next, blue, five; the next, red, seven; and the next, gold—a complete circle of 44⁄5 in. radius—nine. The exact centre of the gold is called the “pin-hole.” The targets are set up in pairs, facing each other, the distances for men being 100, 80 and 60 yds.; for ladies, 60 and 50; for convenience, 5 yds. are added to allow for a shooting-line that distance in front of each target. The centre of the gold should be 4 ft. from the ground. Each archer shoots three arrows—an “end”—at one target; they then cross over and mark the scores. If an arrow cuts two rings, the archer is credited with the value of the higher one. In matches a “York Round” or a “St George’s Round” is usually shot by men, the former consisting of 144 arrows, 72 at 100 yds., 48 at 80 yds., and 24 at 60 yds., the latter of 36 arrows at each of these distances. One York Round only is shot on a day; a double York Round is shot, one on each day, at the more important meetings. Ladies usually shoot the “National Round” of 48 arrows at 60 yds. and 24 at 50 yds. At most meetings the prizes are awarded on the gross scores; at others, including the Championship meeting, on points, two points for the highest score on the round and two for most hits on the round, one point each for highest score and most hits at each of the three ranges, ten points in all. Ladies’ scores are calculated similarly. To decide the Championship, the Grand National Archery Society passed a rule in 1894 that “The Champion prizes shall be awarded to the archer gaining the greatest number of points, provided that those for gross hits or gross score are included; any points won by other archers shall be redistributed among those gaining the points for gross hits or gross score.” Handicapping may be done by “rings,” the winner of a first prize not being allowed to count “whites” at subsequent meetings, and “blacks” and “blues” being lost for further successes. Better methods are (1) to deduct a percentage from the gross score of successful shooters, (2) to handicap by points, as in other pastimes, or (3) to rate a shooter according to the average of his last year’s performances, re-rating him monthly, or at convenient intervals, the system being to add his average of the current year to his average of last year, and divide the sum by two to form his new rating.
Clout and Long Distance Shooting.—This form of archery is chiefly supported by the Woodmen of Arden and the Royal Company. At 100 yds., the target (smaller by 4 in. than the usual one, but with an inner white circle instead of the blue) is set up against a butt only 18 in. from the ground, but for nine-score, ten-score, and twelve-score shooting it is a white target, 2 ft. 6 in. in diameter, with a black centre. The target, the centre and the arrow that hits the centre are each known as a “clout.” Hits and misses are signalled by a marker stationed, rather perilously, by the side of the butt. The target is sloped backwards to an angle of 60°, with rings marked round it on the ground at distances of 1½ ft., 3 ft., 6 ft. and 9 ft., a hit in the outer ring counting one, and in the next two, and so on, the clout or centre counting six. For the longer ranges lighter arrows are used. The Scottish clout was a piece of canvas, stretched on a frame; the range 180 or 200 yds.; all arrows counted one that were within 24 ft. of the target, the clout counting two. Modern archers have paid scant attention to mere distance-shooting, which is an art of its own, but their experiments prove that with a fairly heavy bow, say 60 ℔ or 63 ℔, and a long light arrow, known as a “flight arrow,” a good archer should be able to reach 300 or 310 yds. With a heavier bow, properly under control, 50 or 60 yds. might be added to this by a strong man. These experiments seem to be verified by a quotation from Shakespeare (Henry IV. Act iii. Sc. 2): “A’ would have clapped i’ the clout and twelve score, and carried you a forehand shaft a fourteen and fourteen and a half,” i.e. 280 or 290 yds. Instances are recorded of Englishmen shooting 340 and 360 yds., but in 1795 Mahmoud Effendi of the Turkish embassy shot 482 yds. with a Turkish bow, and Sultan Selim 972. The Turk, however, used a Turkish bow and a 14-in. arrow, with a grooved rest on his left arm along which the arrow passed, to compensate for the difference between the draw of the bow and the shortness of the arrow. The diplomatist’s shot is supported by good evidence, but the sultan’s is regarded as improbable at least.Championship and Scores.—The British championship meetings, instituted in 1844, are conducted under the laws of the Grand National Archery Society: the prizes, apart from the Challenge prizes, are given in money, there being also a rule that any one who makes three golds at one end receives a shilling from all others of the same sex who are shooting. The most notable champion was Horace A. Ford (d. 1880), who held the title for eleven consecutive years, 1849 to 1859 inclusive, and again in 1867. He made a four-figure score at four other championship meetings, his highest, 1251 (in 1857) for 245 hits being unapproached. To him the modern scientific practice of archery must largely be attributed, together with its improvement and its popularity. The names of G. Edwards, Major C. Hawkins Fisher, H. H. Palairet, C. E. Nesham, and G. E. S. Fryer, are also notable as champions. Among ladies Mrs Horniblow was champion for eleven years between 1852 and 1881, Miss Legh for nineteen years between 1880 and 1908; Mrs Piers Legh, Miss Betham and Mrs Bowly claim the title on four occasions. Mrs Bowly’s score of 823 (1894) was the highest made for the championship till Miss Legh made 825 with 143 hits—only one arrow missed altogether—in 1898; beating her own record with a score of 841 (143 hits) in 1904. It should not be forgotten that as the championship is awarded by points, the highest score does not necessarily win.
See Roger Ascham, Toxophilus (1545), edited by Edward Arber (London, 1868); The Arte of Warre, by William Garrard (London 1591); The Arte of Archerie, by Gervase Markham (London, 1634); Ancient and Modern Methods of Arrow Release, by E. S. Morse (1885); The English Bowman, by T. Roberts (London, 1801); A Treatise on Archery, by Thomas Waring (London, 9th ed., 1832); The Theory and Practice of Archery, by Horace A. Ford (new ed., London, 1887); Archery, by C. J. Longman and H. Walrond (Badminton Library, London, 1894).