Above,the archery butts scene from the Luttrell Psalter, commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, lord of the manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire, written and illustrated on parchment circa 1320–1340 by anonymous scribes and artists.
"Tox. Little is to be said of the bracer. A bracer serveth for two causes, one to save his arm from the stripe of the string, and his doublet from wearing; and the other is, that the string gliding sharply and quickly off the bracer, may make the sharper shot. For if the string should light upon the bare sleeve, the strength of the shoot should stop and die there. But it is best, by my judgement, to give the bow so much bent, that the string need never touch a man's arm, and so should a man need no bracer, as I know many good archers which occupy none. In a bracer a man must take heed of three things ; that it have no nails in it, that it have no buckles, that it be fast on with laces without agglets. For the nails will sheer in sunder a man's string before he be ware, and so put his bow in jeopardy : buckles and agglets at unwares shall raze his bow, a thing both evil for the sight, and perilous for fretting. And thus a bracer is only had for this purpose, that the string may have ready passage"
Toxophilus is a book about longbow archery by Roger Ascham, first published in London in 1545. Dedicated to King Henry VIII, it is the first book on archery written in English.
Whilst wearing a bracer (or armguard) on the inside forearm of your bow arm is not strictly necessary it can protect the bowstring from sticking you as you release. This is very painful especially as it can happen several times in a row, and leave a painful egg-shaped swelling and bruise. However, even if your form and bracing height is good, bracers also keep your sleeve away from the string. Medieval and Tudor people wore bracers, some of them highly decorated for they loved decoration. Bracers would commonly be made of leather as well as horn or even ivory. Some Mary Rose bracers show the insignia of a pomegranate, Catherine of Aragon’s badge, was an ancient symbol for fertility and regeneration.
A high status ivory bracer and two simple leather munitions grade bracers. All function as well as the other but the status implications are clear.
Here in wales we have our own medieval bracer found in the bilges of the Newport Medieval Ship, a 1400s merchant vessel unearthed in 2002. On the right is a reconstruction by Jeremy Spencer and, below, a reconstructions of The British Museum's Tudor cuir bouilli or boilled leather bracer and a simple cow horn bracer.