What shafts or arrows were made of in former times, authors do not so plentifully show, as of bows; yet Herodotus does tell us, that in the River Nilus there was a Beast called a water horse, of whose skin after it was dried, the Egyptians made shafts and darts. The tree called Cornus, was so common to make shafts on, that in many good Latin authors, Cornus is taken for a shaft, as in Seneca and this place of Virgil. Volat Itala Cornus.
Yet of all things that ever I marked in any old authors, either Greek or Latin, for shafts to be made of, I find not any thing so common as reeds; Herodotus in describing the mighty host of Xerxes, shows that those great countries used shafts made of reeds, as the Ethiopians, the s(whose Shafts had no feathers, at which I much marvel) and the Indians. The Indian shafts were very long, as a yard and an half (according to Apian) or at the least a full yard, as affirms Quintus Curtius, which made them give the greater blow, yet that great length made them more unhandsome, and less profitable for them that used them. In Creet and Italy, they made their shafts of reeds also, and as they, so many other countries beside.
The best reeds for shafts grew in Italy, especially in Rhemus, a flood in Italy. But because such shafts, are neither easy for our English nation to get, or it got, scarce profitable for use, I will leave them unhandled, and only speak of those shafts which our English nation do most approve of at this day. And therefore you shall understand, that every shaft does consist of three distinct parts, as the steel, the feather, and the head, which make a complete arrow, and because they be each of them (how ever slight in shallow imagination) yet of great validity and worthy our best discourse, I will handle them severally and apart. And first, of the steel.