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The Crossbow   >  Chapter 10  >  Primitive Wood Crossbow Bent by Manual Power Only  > p.57

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

Chapter X

The Primitive Crossbow with a Bow of Solid Wood,
which was Bent by Manual Power Only

The earliest crossbow doubtless had its bow formed of one stout piece of tough wood, such as ash or yew. It was bent by drawing its string to the catch of the lock by means of the hands alone.

The feet were pressed against the centre of the bow to gain a leverage, one foot on each side of the stock. As the primitive crossbow had no stirrup, the back of its bow could be placed close to the ground, for the purpose of placing the feet upon it preparatory to drawing its bow-string.

Fig. 24, next page, shows a crossbowman bending his weapon in this manner.

These simply constructed crossbows may be recognised in illuminated missals by the absence of a stirrup, and by the length, thickness and roughness of their bows (as if wrapped outside with cord to strengthen them). This thickness, their size and rough outline, and especially the absence of the stirrup, plainly show that their bows could not have been of steel, or even of composite construction.

It will here be interesting to give the description of the crossbow of about the time of the first Crusade, as written by Anna Comnena, who attributes its invention to the French.1 This authoress not only gives us an accurate account of the weapon, but also tells us when it was first seen (in reality re-introduced) in warfare. She writes : ' It is a bow of a kind unknown to the Greeks and to the Barbarians. This terrible weapon is not worked by drawing its cord

1 Princess Anna Comnena, b. 1083, d. 1148, daughter of Emperor Alexis I., wrote the Alexiad (the history of her father, in fifteen books). As Anna Comnena was only sixteen years of age in 1099, she could not, prodigy though we know she was, have been the authoress of the Alexiad if it was finished in 1099, as stated in works of reference.

In 1118, Anna was banished from court by her brother for intriguing against him. The history of her father, she tells us in her preface, was compiled to console and occupy her during her banishment. The Alexiad must, therefore, have been produced between 1118 and 1148.

The fact that Anna refers to the crossbow as a novelty, shows us, from our knowledge of its antiquity, that its common use in warfare had been discontinued for many years previous to the first Crusade. There is, however, sufficient evidence to prove that crossbows were carried by the Normans at the invasion of England in 1066, p. 45.


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The trebuchet kit includes fully precut and drilled frame parts, pins and axles, sling cord and sewn pouch, projectiles and fully illustrated assembly and firing instructions. 

Unlike the flimsy, snap together plywood trebuchet kits, our all hardwood trebuchet kit does not require additional cutting, trimming or shaping.

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Inspired by the great war machines and siege catapults of Leonardo da Vinci , this all Red Oak hardwood trebuchet features an open counterweight cabinet for range and trajectory adjustment. 

Fire with an empty counterweight for indoor use, or add weight (nuts, bolts, scrap lead, iron or steel, sand, or small rocks not included) for increased range.

Individually crafted from cabinet-grade red oak, the da Vinci Trebuchet stands 14 inches tall in the cocked position, 24 inches tall in the fired position and will hurl a projectile up to 60 feet. Includes six projectiles and fully illustrated instructions.

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