Original 18th Century Gold Leaf Encrusted Stonebow
Original Item: Only One Available. The arrow-shooting crossbow has been known since antiquity and was extensively used in warfare and for hunting during the Middle Ages and through the Renaissance. In the 16th Century, a two-stringed crossbow was developed which shot smooth stones, or pellets of baked clay, and was widely used for birds and small game. These "stone-bows" differed in construction from regular crossbows in that the center portion of the stock was curved downward so the stone, held in a pouch between the strings, could fly freely. The early stone-bows usually had relatively thin metal bows that were bent (cocked) by hand, as opposed to hunting crossbows that usually required some mechanical means of cocking them.
The stone bow design was perfected in England in the mid to late 18th Century by the addition of a strong, upwardly curved steel bow (usually made in Liege) that held the strings and pouch well off the stock. This allowed the stock to be made straight, and thus much stronger than the earlier bent stocks, making it practical to use a more powerful spring. Because of the power of the spring, lead bullets of about 1/2 ounce weight (218 gr - 32ga) were used instead of the much lighter clay pellets, and these new stonebows became known as "Bullet-Shooting Crossbows". A sophisticated cocking lever and release mechanism was incorporated into the stock, making it a very portable sporting weapon, favored by small-game hunters (and particularly by poachers) and even some assassins who favored them for their silence.
This English Stone-bow or bullet-shooting crossbow is highly unusual and extremely rare. We believe it dates from about 1760 and was used for hunting by the super rich of the day. The bow is of spring steel measuring 26" across. The shaft is polished wood and is 29" long with an integral wood button on the rear.
The steel work of the entire action is heavily etched with hunting scenes and profusely inlaid with gold leaf. The most fascinating detail is that this bow comes complete with it's original rather complicated gut cord system incorporating the leather stone bag and bone/ivory spacers to keep the cord separated at the center.
The mechanism is relatively simple and has it's own levering system to draw back the cord into the "loaded" position (certainly not recommended as this is nearly 300 years old). Once under tension the trigger button is located on the top of the mechanism under the folding rear sight. The U type folding front sight has teeth down each arm across which we are told a cross thread was originally run for aiming.
This is an outstanding item in fabulous condition with only very little wear to the gold leaf. It has plainly been on a castle wall on display for most of its life in order to stay in such a fabulous condition. It is the only stone-bow we’ve ever had the pleasure to own. Its craftsmanship, condition, and history will make it the Jewel of any collection.
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