Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Archery

ARCHERY is the art, or exercise, of shooting with a bow and arrow.

Among ancient nations, the bow was the principal instrument of war; and the skill of the archer often decided the fate of battles and of empires.

The English were particularly expert in the use of this instrument; and their ever memorable victories at the battles of Cressy and Poictiers, were chiefly ascribed to their valiant archers.

James the First of Scotland, who had seen and admired the dexterity of English archers, and was himself a skilful bowman, endeavoured to revive that exercise among his own subjects, by whom it had been neglected; but the untimely death of that excellent prince, prevented the effectual execution of this useful project.

In the time of Edward the Third, there was an act of parliament, which obliged our English archers, even in times of peace, to erect butts in every parish, and to shoot on Sundays and holidays. By this constant practice, the English armies possessed an exclusive advantage over their enemies.

Charles the First of England, from a treatise entitled "the Bowman's Glory," also appears to have been an archer. In the eighth year of his reign, he issued a commission to the Chancellor, Lord Mayor and Privy Council, to prevent the fields near London from being so inclosed, as "to interrupt the necessary and profitable exercise of shooting."

The use of the long-bow continued in estimation for more than two centuries after the introduction of gunpowder; which was probably owing to the weight and unwieldiness of muskets.

The distance to which an arrow may be shot from a long-bow, depends in a great degree on the strength and size of the archer, but in general is reckoned from eleven to twelve score yards.

Archers consider an arrow of from twenty to twenty-four drop weight, to be the best for flight, or hitting a mark at a considerable distance; and yew, the best material of which they can be made. The feathers of a goose are generally preferred; two out of three are commonly white, being taken from the gander; the third is brown or grey; and this difference of colour informs the archer when the arrow is properly placed. The long-bow is of the same height as the archer himself: and in England a peculiar mediod is practised, by drawing the arrow to the ear, and not towards the breast; which is doubtless more advantageous than that adopted among other nations.

The force with which an arrow strikes an object, at a moderate distance, may be conceived, from the account given by King Edward VI. in his Journal, where he says, that one hundred archers of his guard, discharged in his presence two arrows each; that they shot at an inch-board, and many of them pierced it quite through, though the timber was well seasoned.

It may perhaps be a subject Worthy the consideration of government, whether the revival of archery, by uniting military discipline with manly exercise, might not become an additional means, both of preserving health, and protecting us against foreign enemies. According to Neade, an archer might shoot six arrows in the time of charging and discharging a musket; and an ounce of fire-work may also be discharged, upon an arrow, to the distance of 240 yards.

The earliest histories of archery, in England, are those by Ascham, who wrote his Toxophilus in the reign of Henry VIII.; Markham's Art of Archery, which appeared in 1634; and Wood's Bowman's Glory, in 1682: but the latest, and most complete work on the subject, is "An Essay on Archery," describing the practice of that art, in all ages and nations; by W. M. Moseley, Esq. 8vo. pp. 348. 7s. boards. Robson, 1792. In this classical treatise, the author considers bows, arrows, quivers, butts, targets, and cross-bows, under different heads; and his account is illustrated by plates. Ease and perspicuity; richness without verbosity; and elegance untainted with affectation, are the characters of this entertaining work.

Archery continues to be practised by the inhabitants of Geneva, and in many parts of Flanders. In Britain we have several societies of archers, the principal of which are the Woodmen of Arden, the Toxopholite, and the Royal Company of Archers of Scotland.—See also, Arrow.