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Classic archery books online

Verfasst: 16.11.2005, 20:49
von horsebow
The internet is an immense source of information, and you can find entire books in online libraries.
There are a number of archery classics online that deserve attention from everybody concerned with or interested in the history of archery.

The originals are usually long out of print, and even reprints are antiquarian and hard to come by at a reasonable price. Due to European copyright restrictions, a book is free from copyright seventy years after the author’s death, after that time everyone can put books online or reprint them.

All of them have one minor fault in common: The original books have been scanned and converted into text with the aid of an OCR software. Reading or converting mistakes have not been corrected, so you can find a lot of spelling or typing mistakes. Usually, they can be corrected by reading the context.

Here is a possibility to read “virtual” archery books for weeks to come!
If anybody prefers to read real paper books, here’s my solution:
Copy the HTML-pages into a Microsoft Word document, get the pages numbered and formatted, print it and have it bound – still a non-expensive way of getting these books!

To begin with, one of the more known online sources is Marcello’s Archery Library:
In his introduction, Johannes Marcello Pinter Müller writes:
“Old archery books still contain a lot of useful information. They are hard to find and often very expensive. I will try and put these books on line for the benefit of all archers and as a record of passed times of archery. …
I try and stay as close to the original as possible. The original paragraphs are maintained, as well as the italics in the text. There may be spelling mistakes and even omissions so, if you do find a typing/scanning mistake, or if you suspect that something is not correct, please let me know. Please, do notice that the original spelling might be somewhat different than today. …
I will scan chapters when I have time and feel like it. If I get sufficient response, I might put in the extra effort.”

However, the last “what’s new”-entry dates from Sept 17th, 2000…
I’ll write him an email these days to encourage further work on the page and I hope many others will do so, too, for this online library is a real good job!

The books are:

George Agar Hansard: The Book of Archery. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans 1840
As far as I know, there was only one edition of this book, so it is very rare. I have a copy in my possession that dates from 1841. It cost under 100 EUR, but I was very lucky to get it. The book was reprinted for the “legends of the longbow” series edited by Glenn St. Charles (Lyon/Miss.: Derrydale Press 1993) and there is a new paperback version by the Royal Armouries Naval & Military Press 2004. I quote from their book description:
“Hansard’s book is as much about preserving the ancient sport and tactic of archery as it is about its history, but the history he presents is in the very best Victorian tradition. He details every instance quoted, and often illustrates his points as well, and covers the archer from before the Norman Conquest of 1066 up to archery at Harrow and Eton in 1840, when the book was published. His history travels far afield, and he patriotically writes about the adroitness of English bowmen, as well as the ancient Goths and Persians, Scandinavian archers, Indian bowmen, and archers in the Americas. His treatment is excellent, easy to read and most informative. Hansard also looks at what the archer of 1840 needed, and at the then new-fangled phenomenon of lady-archers. He deals with Welsh archers and their history. His account of French archery leads into a discussion of the crossbow. Although not chronological, and sometimes illogical, the treatment of archery examines the wood for the bow, arrow-making, hunting with the bow, and lastly Greek and Roman archery. The woodcut plates are informative and often delightful, with clear delineation and expressiveness. In all a really charming and well-resented book, which will stand both as a reference text and simply a first class read.”

An Old Toxophilite: The Archer’s Guide. London: T. Hurst, St. Paul's Church-Yard 1833
The book was illustrated and most probably written under pseudonym, too, by Robert Cruikshank, member of the Brompton Club of Archers. I have found the original in an online bookshop once within the last two years, it cost more than 500 EUR (I did not buy it!). There was one facsimile reprint in 1970 (London: Tabard Press), which can be bought for about 30 EUR. There is also a cheap stapled reprint available from the Dyfi Valley bookshop in Wales, 2003.
In six chapters, Cruikshank gives an ancient history of the bow as well as a history of archery in England, writes about the art and practice of archery with a full chapter on Ascham’s “Five Points”, general observations and a chapter about the different kinds of shooting, such as roving, flight-shooting and the like. All that is filled with many anecdotes, and at last we have a glossary of terms and phrases used in archery.

C. J. Longman & Col. H. Walrond: Archery. The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes. London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1894
I have the luck to own a first edition volume, but it will be hard to find one that costs less than 150 EUR. There was a reissue in 1901, a reprint in 1967 by Frederick Ungar Publishing Co, New York, which sometimes can be found in American bookshops for about EUR 20 and a reprint for Glenn St. Charles’s “legends of the longbow” series, too, which shows the rank of this book in archery literature.
Both authors were experts on the topic, besides both had a great collection of bows, arrows and archery tackle from around the world. The book has 534 pages with 23 plates and 170 text illustrations, all of them scanned and included in the online version. It is a thorough examination of the topic from stone age bows to aboriginal archery in the Andamans, giving a complete history and many instructive pictures. Every aspect of Archery is dealt with. This is one of the most-quoted archery books ever, a must-read for everyone interested in the history of archery.

Maurice and Will H. Thompson: How to train in Archery. Being a complete study of the York Round. New York: E. I. Horsman 1879
This book was first published in 1879 (There was a reprint by the Tabard Press, London, in 1970, which costs now about EUR 70. Originals are practically unavailable) and is a guide to target archery by two of the most prominent archers of the USA in their lifetime: Maurice and Will Thomson, whose involvement in archery made it a popular sport in the US. They were among the first white men in America who brought bowhunting back at the end of the 19th century. Maurice, the Author of “The Witchery of Archery”, was also President of the Grand National Archery Association of the United States. They were influenced by the British archery system, hence this booklet. It is still a very good, brief instruction on target archery with the longbow, containing chapters on position, keeping a line, how to keep a length, the effects of weather, how to train and a glossary of archery terms.

On Marcello’s booklist you can also find “The English Bowman. Tracts on Archery” by T. Roberts, London 1801. However, only the preface of this very interesting early book is online, so it is not necessary to go further into the subject. Originals of this work are available for about EUR 400, I have got a facsimile reprint in 1973 by EP Publishing Ltd. Wakefield 1973, ISBN 0 85409 770 8 with a foreword by E. G. Heath which will now cost about EUR 70.

The Gutenberg Project is an online library which offers 17 000 free ebooks! They have nearly 2 million downloads every month!

Using the comfortable search function, you can find among them text no 8084: Saxton Pope: Hunting with the Bow and Arrow. San Francisco: James H: Berry & Co 1923
What do I have to say about this book? It is the story of Ishi, the last wild-living Indian in North-America, of a young man falling for the fascination of the bow, of hunting with his comrades for every kind of prey, it is adventurous – a must-read for every archer! All the original pictures are included.

The last book I want to introduce is perhaps the least known:
L. E. Stemmler: The Essentials of Archery. How to use and make Bows and Arrows. 1942 A pdf download - simply print out the 53 pages and have them bound! ... ntials.htm
This book was presumably first published by the author in Manorville, New York, 1937, there is a 1942 and a 1956 edition, too, which can be got from American online bookstores for prices around 30-50 EUR. L. E. Stemmler was a bowyer and fletcher who had a shop in Manorville, N. Y.(I have also found L.E. Stemmler, bowyer and fletcher since 1912, in Queen’s Village, Long Island, N.Y. in 1920 and in 1927 and in Middlebury, Connecticut) and sold bows as well as pre-fabricated bowstaves (You can still find Stemmler bows, arrows, hunting broadheads and vintage catalogues at!). His book is very instructive for beginners and shows the shooting technique as well as the manufacture of several bow types and archery tackle, using very good schematical drawings which reminded me at once of Saxton Pope’s pictures on bow and arrow building in “Hunting with the Bow and Arrow.” There are chapters on building lemonwood self long bows and flat-limbed bows, horn and fibre-tipped bows, backed bows and how backings are applied, demountable bows, yew and osage orange longbows and osage orange flat-bows, reflexed bows and so on. A real mine of information on bow-building!

If anybody knows more online archery books – tell us here!

Regards, horsebow

Verfasst: 08.12.2005, 01:20
von Kyujin
The Badminton Library of Archery is also available as PDF of the original imprint:

"The Japanese, who must always do things in a different way from their neighbours, have concocted a glove with a monstrous thumb - like the thumb of a boxing glove, but harder and stalls for the first two fingers."

I liked that one. :D

The website has a lot of texts available, both classic and modern, all as pdf. Probably the most "classic" of them from a traditional point of view is Toxophilus by Roger Asham.

Verfasst: 06.02.2006, 20:58
von horsebow
@Kyujin: Thank you for this excellent link!
The page has now moved, though:
They have got pdf-downloads of the all the books I mentioned above and many more, especially:

- A Book on the Excellence of the Bow & Arrow
(Kitab fi bayau fadl al-qaws w-al-sahm wa-awsufihima). It is an English translation of a Mameluke work on Archery from about AD 1400, and I strongly suspect it is an online version of
Latham, John Derek / Paterson, William Forbes: Saracen Archery, an English Version and Exposition of a Mameluke Work on Archery (ca AD 1368). London: Holland Press 1970.

- Essential Archery for Beginners
(Kitab ghunyat at-tullab fi marifat ramy an-mushshab) This is the English version of an Arabic book on archery from about AD 1500, and maybe it is an online version of
Faris, Nabih Amin / Elmer, Robert P.: Arab Archery. An Arabic Manuscript of about A.D. 1500. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1945.

Both these books are first-rate primary sources of composite archery, and if you leave aside the praise for Allah, they contain a fountain of hints concerning thumb-release and the whole process of shooting.
There are also very nice hints how to shoot a horseman, how to shoot flechettes, fire arrows, how to produce and shoot arrows your enemy cannot use against you and the like.

They have also a very nice facsimile edition of
Ascham, Roger: Toxophilus; The School of Shooting, in Two Books., London 1545, repr. E. Arber, London 1868!
This is the very first european work on archery ! Ascham and his famous "five points" need not be explained, do they?

All in all, is a very important source for lots and lots of classic archery literature. I have most of them downloaded, printed and bound - an impressive and substantial library for cheap!

Regards, horsebow

Thank you, thank you, thank you

Verfasst: 07.02.2006, 12:57
von Dustybaer
I started reading some of the stuff online today and I must admit I was impressed. I will certainly revisit the site quite frequently in the near future. It is fascinating to read about the very topics we discuss today in a book that's hundreds of years old. There is much to learn on that webpage.

And of course, my gratitude goes also to the owners and supporters of that page. Thank you for sharing. :anbet

Another Classic

Verfasst: 13.03.2006, 21:47
von horsebow
In 1634, Gervase Markham published "The Art of Archerie. Showing how it is most necessary in these times for this kingdom, both in peace and war, and how it may be done without charge to the country, trouble to the people, or andy hindrance to necessary occcasions. Also, of the discipline, the postures, and whatsoever else is necessary for the attaining to the art."

Gervase Markham (1568?-1637) was a prolific writer on a number of subjects, including horses and horsemanship, agriculture and, reflecting his soldiering during his early years, military matters. He often wrote several books on the same subject and he sometimes re-issued with a new title unsold copies of a particular volume!

T. Roberts remarked in his "The English Bowman", London 1801, p. X: "The author must here, indeed, observe, he had been given to understand, that a Treatise upon Archery had been written since the Toxophilus, by Gervase Markham, (published in the year 1634). To this work, therefore, he was eager to refer; conceiving that it would either supersede the necessity of his intended collections from the Toxophilus; or, at least, save him much labour in the undertaking. With some pains he got access to the book (Which, at this time, is a very scarce Tract); but he found himself greatly disappointed and deceived, and felt nort a little indignation against the author and his performance, when he discovered, that it was a mere abstract from Ascham, without any kind of comment or explanation: yet, with matchless effrontery, displaying a manifest endeavour to conceal the name of the original composer, and to transfer the language and merits of the Toxophilus of the learned Ascham to Mr. Gervase Markham."

I liked the way Roberts gave way to his indifference and annoyance on Markham's book. Indeed, it is not much more than a plagiate of Ascham's Toxophilus. Nevertheless, it is worth reading and having (and it is remarkably shorter and a bit easier to read than the Toxophilus).

You can find the html text on

Regards, horsebow

Archery Library

Verfasst: 03.09.2006, 13:27
von Librarian
Many thanks for your kind words on the Archery Library. After not doing any work on it for 6 years, I picked it up again and have added more books.

Please note that the URL has changed to:

You are still redirected at the old address, but this link will cease to exist at the end of 2006.

Comments on how the library can be improved are more than welcome.

[edit: typo]