Book Review:

The Ashley Book of Knots

Authors: Clifford Ashley
Length: 640 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Genre: Fact
Language: English
ISBN: 057109659X
Rating: Five Stars! 5/5 Stars


This is by far the best book I have ever read on the subject of knots, but it's scope reaches far beyond simply how to tie simple bends and shanks. The author, Clifford Ashley, was an artist as well as a sailor and this book was the work of a lifetime of fascination with knots. From an early age Clifford Ashley took an interest in any knot he saw. Knots were documented as to where he saw them, exactly how they were tied, who tied them and why, what their names and uses were, the knots' strengths and weaknesses, and any other pertinent information he could acquire.

Over a period of many, many years Ashley kept these notes and finally wrote the book which is profusely illustrated by his own drawings, paired with a clear description and examples of it's use. As his knowledge became known he was sought out as a consultant by industrial firms and as a part of this work he also conducted testing of certain knots. The book goes far beyond the knot names and their uses. It explains why sailors tie decorative knots, why some knots are strong, why some knots are easy to untie, why knots tied by certain tradesmen have to have special characteristics.

Mr. Ashley had a keen sense of history and the book is filled with not only the history of individual knots, but the history of trades and how they utilized knots. You can open the book to nearly any page and read a fascinating story about a knot, a vocation, a way of life, how and why people use knots, the different materials used with knots, or an episode in his own life. The book can be read as a novel.

But if you are looking for practical information on a certain knot, or on a class of knots designed for a certain job, don't think that this information will be hard to find. Each of the knots is numbered and is rated with a small drawing which is a symbol of the special characteristics of that knot. Is the knot dangerous? is it weak or strong? Is it easy to tie? Does it have many uses? The same knots that are in different chapters are cross referenced and other knots that can serve the same purposes but used in other trades are noted, and the illustrations are clear, comprehensive and easy to follow.

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