crossbows-lnks – 6/4/04
A set of web links to information on medieval crossbows by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: Lis <liontamr at ptd.net>
Date: March 7, 2004 9:51:21 AM CST
To: Stefan li Rous <StefanliRous at austin.rr.com>
Subject: Links: Historical Crossbows
Chronology of the Crossbow
*986 CE --- 'Lock bows' used in the battle of Hjorungsvag.
ca. 1000 CE --- The crossbow comes into wide use.
11 th. century CE --- Tiller is grooved to hold bolt (Wilkinson-Latham, p. 170)
*1066 CE --- Crossbows reintroduced into England by the Normans.
*1096 CE --- Anna Comnena records the use of crossbows in that year by the
Crossbow History and Information Copyright 1997-2003 Archery Society
(Site Excerpt) Literary and physical evidence suggest that the crossbow
first appeared in China during the 4th century BC. It wasn't until the 10th
or 11th centuries AD that the crossbow became a significant military weapon
in Europe. It passed from general military service in the 16th century, but
its use for hunting and target shooting has continued to the present day.
The most of following chronology is abridged from GUIDE TO THE CROSSBOW by
Articles from the Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries
18 articles including a bibliography. Not necessarily cross-bows, but it's a
terrific site so I couldn't resist!
BBC Online: Beyond the Broadcast--Making History
Richard the Lionheart and the crossbow (note: does not appear to have a
copyright notice but is specifically NOT copyrighted by BBC)
(Site Excerpt) Brian Parker from Pontypridd wanted to know whether the
archers who accompanied Richard I on the Third Crusade (1189-1192) were
armed with longbows or crossbows. Making History consulted Wendy Hodkinson,
Keeper of the Simon Archery Collection at Manchester Museum. The crossbow
goes back at least as far as the sixth century BC in China, though bows and
arrows were used for hunting (and probably for war) as early as Palaeolithic
times. The Romans knew of the crossbow but its use was not widespread in
Europe until the end of the first millennium. It was supposed to have come
to or been reintroduced to Britain with William the Conqueror at the Battle
of Hastings in 1066. For the next century at least armies all over the
continent had crossbowmen. Pope Innocent II called the crossbowman's skill a
'deadly art, hated by God'.
The Crossbow in the Medieval Period copyright The Beckoning ? 2004
(Site Excerpt) A BRIEF WORD ABOUT CROSSBOWS The crossbow played an important
role in the late Medieval period. The crossbow was really the first
hand-held weapon that could be used by an untrained soldier to injure or
kill a knight in plate armour. The most powerful crossbows could penetrate
armour and kill at 200 yards. Crossbows are easier to aim than longbows
because the crossbowman doesn't have to use a hand to hold the string back
while aiming. (For more information on crossbows versus longbows, go HERE.)
On a similar note, a crossbow can be loaded long before the bowman might
need to shoot. In this way, the bowman would be able to shoot immediately if
surprised. Crossbows require less upper body strength to operate as well.
One can use both arms to span (draw back) a crossbow. Crossbows do, of
course, come with a price. That price is in efficiency and in the firing
rate. Efficiency is a more technical problem.
ExtremelySharp.com's Cross Bow Aiming and Hunting Techniques
History and terms are also included ont his site. (Site Excerpt from
Crossbow terminology is not altogether standardized and one should not be
too pedantic about it.
ARBALIST Latin language term for crossbow, derived from arcuballista
(also spelled ARBALEST).
ARMBRUST German language term for crossbow which is often preferred in
ARROW Synonym for bolt which is preferred by some modern crossbow
BACK Side of bow or lath facing target.
BALLISTA Roman seige engine similar to oversized crossbow.
BARREL Section of the stock between the latch and lath; sometimes used
as synonym for track.
BARRELED CROSSBOW Crossbow having a tubular barrel rather than a
track; used to shoot balls, usually of lead; synonym for slurbow.
BASTARD STRING String to brace a crossbow for installation of
bowstring; synonym for bracing string.
BELLY Side of bow or lath facing shooter.
The Book of the Crossbow by Ralph Payne-Gallwey
ISBN 0486287203 currently in print Dover Publications
AG Pitts Crossbow Page (copyright A.G.Pitts m/k/a Aileen)
(Site Excerpt) Crossbows have been maligned, hated, outlawed, and condemned
at all stages of history by one group or another. Yet they survive because
they work! But to get the most out of them, you will have to put time into
them. Probably 80% of handbow scores are accomplished at the range itself.
80% of crossbow scores are done in preparation at home before you ever get
to the range. Setting things up right and being consistent is everything in
Knightsedge.com Medieval Crossbows Copyright © 1994 - 2004 Knights Edge Ltd
(Note that there are some great tiny reproductions (decorative, w/photos) on
this page but I can't vouch for their quality. Site Excerpt) Romans used
crossbows as early as the forth century, however evidence of their use has
be found in other parts of the world as well. Crossbows were first brought
to England by the Normans in 1066 and soon became an important weapon in
history. These Medieval Crossbows were used in open warfare as well as for
hunting and were widely employed in England through the time of Elizabeth.
In fact, the large crossbow was more powerful than any longbow and whereas
the lighter crossbows were quite effective for use in the field by armor
clad soldiers, the large and giant crossbow were used in the attack and
defense of fortified places such as castles.
CROSSBOW DESIGNS - History:
(Site Excerpt) In the manner of handbows of the same period, early Western
crossbows featured wood laths and long power strokes (compared to later
examples.) The most common latch mechanism was a rotating nut of bone, ivory
or antler. To achieve greater power, massive "composite" laths made from
sinew, horn or baleen, and wood came into use; these were shorter and much
stiffer than earlier wood laths. As draw weights increased, new methods and
devices for spanning had to be employed, which included the cord and pulley,
belt claw, "goat's foot", bending lever, cranequin and windlass. Steel laths
later provided even greater power. Spanning devices made reloading a slow
process compared with hand bows. Crossbows were more useful for hunting and
siegecraft than in open battle, where their slow rate of fire was a serious
[gurps] Question about crossbows & longbows (From an archive of messages)
(c) Volker Bach, 2000
(Site Excerpt) A crossbow, at the simplest level, consists of a bow mounted
on a stock fitted with a trigger mechanism to hold back and release the
bowstring. These elements form the 'cross' (more commonly a T-shape) that
gives it its English name. Many crossbows are equipped with grooves to
guide their arrows or bolts, nocks or spring mechanisms to hold them in
various mechanical devices to draw back the bowstring. Some have sights or,
in the case of very modern weapons, scopes mounted on them.
Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
With a noise of winds and many rivers,
With a clamour of waters, and with might;
Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.
----Algernon Charles Swinburne. 1837-1909
Chorus from 'Atalanta' (a work celebrating, amongst other things, spring)