Listed and reviewed here are some books that we consider well worth buying. The books are all ones that we own and have therefore read and can honestly recommend. As we have lots of books I have had to split the bookshelf into categories please be patient as the pages load. You can also purchase any of the books by clicking on the “purchase” link by the book you are interested in. As time permits I will add more.
The Book of the Crossbow
by Ralph Payne-Gallwey
First published in 1903, later to appear with the 1907 appendix, this valuable work was written by Ralph Payne-Gallwey who apparently had an unlimited source of money and time. Along with the history of the crossbow, detailed accounts of the construction and maintenance of various crossbows designed for bolts and bullets are given.
Related and/or relevant medieval weapons, like longbow, ballista and arquebus, are also treated in some detail. Some self-evident details of construction or handling, clearly visualised by the illustrations, are too often spelled out in full, while more obscure mechanisms of elaborate trigger systems, could have benefited from a whole lot more detailed explanation.
This said, it must be stressed that on the whole it is a very fine piece of work, a book without a match for almost a century, and certainly well worth recommending.
The Longbow (A Social and Military History)
by Robert Hardy
This is the second edition of a fine work by Robert Hardy. This book was in its first edition the definitive work on the English longbow. The second edition has added much to what was an outstanding work. With data from the Mary Rose finds and research carried out about the longbow since the first book was published this book is a must for any historian, archer or re-enactor.
The depth of the work and the carefully detailed research that is evident are enough to recommend this book.
English Longbowman 1330-1515
by Clive Bartlett, illustrated by Gerry Embleton
An inexpensive and useful work. This book traces the history and development of the bow from King Edward to Henry V, during which time the backbone of the English armies was the longbowman.
This book charts the development of the longbow and covers some of the most famous battles of medieval history – Crecy, Poiters and Agincourt. Great value for money and well illustrated.
The Medieval Archer
by Jim Bradbury
This is a study of the archer and his weapon, from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses. It opens with a definition of various types of bow and challenges the usual assumption that the “longbow” was a new and devastating weapon used only by the English army from the late-13th century onwards.
The author clearly shows from a close study of early evidence, including that of bows used for hunting, that the archer’s role before the time of Edward I was an important but rarely-documented one, and that his new prominence in the 14th century was the result of changes in development of military tactics and the organization of armies rather than a change of weapon.
Bows have been around since the stone age after all. Having examined the archer’s role in warfare, next is the archer’s role in society, based on the legend of Robin Hood, and shows how the stories about him can reveal much to us about the standing of the yeoman archer.
The final chapters look at the archer in the 15th century and then chronicle the rise of the handgun (if I could find more books on early hand guns I would be happy) as the major infantry weapon, at the bow’s expense.
The traditional bowyers bible
by Various authors
Written by a collective group of bowyers this is an excellent book for the novice and the experienced crafts person. The authors know what they are talking about.
Building a really good all wood bow is not easy, but these bowyers take the mystery out of it and try to make it fun in the process there are technical accounts from experienced bowyers, lots of black and white pictures of bows, bow details and key operations in bow making. On the downside, I consider that this book is not for the complete novice.
Many technical terms are used without explanation, and a basic understanding of wooden bows is required. It was my first book on the subject I am happy to recommend it.
The Archers craft Archery and the making of Archers tackle, etc
by Adrian Eliot Hodgkin
This book was first published in 1951 and has now been re-printed. The author starts the book with a history of archery quoting extracts from various historical sources on its rise and fall as a military weapon. He describes the types of wood for bows and arrows giving reasons for their choice. His writing is splendidly readable being both simplistic and impassioned.
Written in the 1950’s he tells a knowledgeable and enlightening lesson with a delightful attitude so laid back that he is truly professional. The second half of the book describes the simple methods of bow and arrow making at home, in the sun, on the doorstep. The last part of the book deals with hunting with the bow and the various techniques learnt through listening and observing.
It is evident that the author absorbed himself in his hobby, learning his craft, reading and practicing. A useful reference for those of us wishing to make our own bows.
by Hideharu Onuma, Dan DeProspero, Jackie DeProspero
A rare insight into the Japanese art of Archery so different to our own. This guide to the spiritual and technical practice of this graceful martial art, by 15th-generation master Hideharu Onuma, includes illustrations and rare photographs. And has much I feel of value to the traditional archer of today.
Armed Martial Arts of Japan : Swordsmanship and Archery
by G. Cameron Hurst
As a follow up to the book on Kyudo I found this book well worth a read. This history of Japanese armed martial arts focuses on traditions of swordmanship and archery from ancient times to the present. The author provides an overview of martial arts in Japanese history and culture, then closely examines the transformation of these fighting skills into sports.
During the Tokugawa era (1600-1867), swordsmanship and archery developed from fighting systems into martial arts, transformed by the powerful social forces of peace, urbanization, literacy, and professional instruction in art forms. the author investigates the changes that occurred as military skills that were no longer necessary took on new purposes: physical fitness, spiritual composure, character development and sport.
The author concludes by exploring the modern organization, teaching, ritual and philosophy of archery and swordsmanship.
Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe : Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics
by Bert S Hall
This book presents a serious, unbiased and well documented view on gunpowder-technology origins and evolution and its real significance in medieval and Renaissance land warfare. However, only the projectile weapons have a good coverage, and warfare at sea is almost totally forgotten.
This is a subject that requires more books and research. The author intertwines facets of technology and society to clarify how each can affect the other. He tries to show that gunpowder did not sweep away the Middle Ages; the thoughts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance men molded how and why gunpowder would be used.
Hall makes the point that a new technology such as gunpowder does not dominate progress but is rather only an ingredient in a very complicated mix of elements.