• noun a primitive type of bowling machine invented in 1837 by ‘Felix’ (Nicholas Wanostrocht) and used for providing batting practice. According to its inventor, ‘the history of this machine in its original form is traced back to the time of the Romans’ (Felix 1850), and in fact the basic operating principle is the same as for the Roman war engine of the same name. In the case of Felix’s Catapulta, however, the ball is not hurled by the arm that swings forward but is ‘made to rest upon a stage and struck from it after the manner of a billiard ball’ (ibid). The machine also incorporated a variety of adjustable mechanisms that enabled the ball to be ‘propelled with the greatest exactitude as respects both pitch and pace’ (Box 1868). Thus, e.g., ‘a plate upon which the ball rested would, by a lateral movement upon a screw, enable the attendant to deliver it either on, or off, at pleasure’ (ibid). The manufacture and retailing of the machine was in the hands of Mr W. H. Caldecourt, from whom it could be bought (in 1850) for ‘11l. 11s. complete with the latest improvements’ (Felix 1850).
    See also Balista, bowling machine, Merlyn