Bows have been grouped according to the instruments with which they are most likely to have been associated. These decisions were made according to the length, weight and general appearance of the bow. It is possible that in some cases bows were used with types of instruments other than those where they are currently catalogued.
Makers’ names, stamps and other inscriptions which appear on the bows are transcribed using the spelling, capitalisation and punctuation as they are found. Characters that are missing or are unclear are in square brackets, thus: [A]. Names do not necessarily refer to the actual maker of the bow, but could be to a dealer or repairer, or simply to a style of bow.
The sides of the bow (index finger side or thumb side) are named as if the bow is held in the right hand in the conventional manner. Although the collection contains various types of bows from different periods, measurements were taken in a unified way in order to facilitate direct comparisons. Lengths are measured in millimetres and weights in grams.
The setup for the measuring process consisted of a table with a ruler (accuracy of 0.5 mm), two set-squares, a plastic calliper (accuracy 0.01 mm) and a scale (accuracy 0.1 gram). The following measurements were taken:
A. Overall length: the distance measured from the tip of the head to the tip of the button while the bow was lying on a table.
B. While in a lying position the ‘playing’ length of the hair was measured while taut; in cases where the screw mechanism was worn it was measured without causing any additional tension. This is the length of hair which is free of both the head and the frog. The overall length of the hair visible between where it turns into the head and frog is also given.
C & D. The stick diameter at the head and just after the frog were taken using callipers from the side of the stick which is opposite to the hair.
E. The width of the hair was measured adjacent to the frog where the ‘playing’ part of the hair begins.
F & G. The gap between the stick and the hair at the head and at the frog was measured using callipers. When a bow has leather padding very close to the frog, the distance measurement between the stick and the hair by the frog is to the outside of the leather padding.
H & I. The bow was laid on its side on the table and a straight line from the top of the head to the screw cap was established. The distance between this line and the point where the bow was furthest from it, the point of maximum concavity, was measured. The distance from this point to the top of the head was then also measured.
J. The weight was measured by hanging a bow by a thread on a sprung scale.
All measurements could not be taken in every case since several bows do not have frogs or hair. For those sticks which change in cross section from round to octagonal, an approximation of where this occurs is given, although this is inevitably imprecise as each has an area of transition.
References to materials are descriptive and generic and not necessarily specific. Materials have been identified by eye without microscopic analysis so are conjectural.
Some bows also have rough drawings which were made initially as an extra resource for the author but also appeared to be a useful way of explaining features not visible in the photographs, such as a head’s face shape or the placement of inscriptions. Therefore drawings are not made to scale and cannot serve as material for making a copy.
There appears to be no standard terminology for bows, different systems being used by previous authors. Some name the parts according to the orientation during playing, while others do the exact opposite. Here, names have been applied with an attempt to avoid the question of orientation, but in general they refer to the bow in its playing position.
Backplate: the slip on the back of the lower face (beyond the slide) and the back face of the frog
Eye: decorative feature, usually two discs, inset into both sides of the frog
Eyelet: screw eye protruding from the frog and into the stick through which the screw passes
Face: the lower surface of the head, often covered with slips of decorative material such as ebony or ivory. A facing described as ‘plain’ is one with no such slip.
Ferrule: the metal piece at the front end of the frog into which the hair passes
Frog: also called the nut, the block into which the hair fits which is held within the right hand.
Head: the end of the stick furthest from the hand.
Liner: also called a sleeve or bottom plate, a metal liner in the surface of the frog adjacent to the stick which facilitates its movement along the stick
Plane: side view, the basic shape into which the outline of the frog or head will fit.
Screw: the screw which extends from the screw cap and is used to move the frog in order to adjust the tension in the hair
Screw cap: the cap, also called a button or tip, which sits beyond the end of the stick and is turned by the fingers to move the frog
Slide: the slip on the opposite face of the frog from the stick, positioned between the ferrule and the backplate