Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8 >> Cromer to Curves Of Double Curvature >> Crossbows


bow, century, stock and bowstring

CROSSBOWS. Called also arbalests. The main elements that compose the crossbow are the arbrier or stock and the short, powerful bow mounted on the stock at right angles. At the bow end is a or loop of iron. The bowstring, when at tension, is released by a trigger, For its discharge the weapon is held up to the shoulder as with the modern gun. The bow, in its earLy stages, when drawn by hand, was built up of a number of layers of whalebone, usually. To bend the bow the stir rup end was placed on the ground and, to hold the weapon firm, one foot was placed in it thus releasing the hands to pull the bowstring (made of sinew) back to a notch in the stock. For firing, the butt end was held up to the shoulder as with our modern guns. When, later, the more powerful bow of steel was used, the neces sity for a mechanical power arose and the pied de biche (hind's foot) or "goat's with its double lever purchase was used. Still fur ther fortifying the bow brought forth the de tachable °wheel and racket) (cric) or "winder,) in which a cogwheel, turned by a handcrank, acted on a movable racket which engaged the bowstring. Another device was the detachable roller-purchase (a tour), in which a drum turned by a crank (moulinet) wound a long cord working on a system of fixed and free pulleys to draw up the bowstring. The cross

bow d jalet or "prodd) had the bow bent by a lever fixed to the stock. It was used, in the 16th century, for discharging stones, lead bullets, etc., for birdshooting (fowling). A crossbow (set by hand) had a half tube super imposing a groove in the stock for the passage of the projectile (bolt), and the bowstring found free passage between the half barrel and the groove below it. It was much used in the 17th century. The projectile used for the cross bow was termed a bolt or quarrel and usually had a pyramidal head (termed pile), the feather ing was done with wood — sometimes inserted diagonally to cause rotating in its passage.

Crossbows date back to the 4th century and manuscripts of the 10th century mention this arm; but, apparently, it was then used for sport only. Richard I of England and Philip Augustus of France (12th century) armed some of their crusaders with crossbows. This arm becime obsolete (giving place to the longbow) in England in the 13th century, but was con tinued in use on the Continent. In the 14th century the French had 6,000 Genoese arbales tiers (crossbow men) at the battle of Crecy. We read of the use of the crossbow as late as 1572.