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If you want to know anything about crossbows, the most authoritative treatise on the subject still in print is Ralph Payne-Gallwey’s The Crossbow; Mediæval and Modern; Millitary and Sporting; Its Construction, History and Management; With a Treatise on the Ballista and Catapult of the Ancients. The book was first published in 1903, but a reprint is available from Dover Press, retitled somewhat less colorfully as “The Book of the Crossbow.”
Payne-Gallwey not only traces the history of the crossbow in his book, but he also lays out complete plans for building everything from rudimentary wooden crossbows to Chinese repeating crossbows to siege engines. I couldn’t resist the urge to build some of these devices, and resolved to start with the crossbow detailed in Chapter XIX, entitled: The Construction Of A Powerful Crossbow, Such As Was Used In The Fifteenth Century For Killing Deer With a Heavy Non-Poisonous Bolt; The Same Weapon, Of Slightly Larger Size, Was Employed In Warfare From About 1370 To About 1490, Or Till The Time When Military Crossbows Were Generally Discarded For Handguns. Feel free to offer any advice as we follow along through the book.
N.B.: By contrast with the many “DIY armorers” out there, who are serious artisans and craftspeople (see the sidebar), this is just for fun so please excuse the ugly hacks.