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Ahhh Knots!

· Knots,Quirky Books,Fine Book Collecting,Halifax,Nova Scotia

“Quirky”. I love quirky things. When you hit “search” on “quirky” in Word here is what you get “ characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits”.

“Quirky” applies nicely to rather serious book featured in this week’s musing. There are lots of books that state the “best of” or the “most of” and so on. Well, this book has the most pictures and descriptions of knots ever produced – 3,900 of them!

The Ashley Book of Knots; by Clifford W. Ashley; Every Practical Knot – What it Looks Like, Who Uses it, Where it Comes From, and How to Tie it; with 7,000 Drawings representing over 3,900 Knots; Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City NY.

Here is the description of the book that I posted on Abebooks.


This is the definitive book on knots. Here are approximately 3,900 different kinds, from simple hitches to Marlinspike Seamanship. Mr. Ashley has included almost everything these is to know about them. And he gives explicit directions on how to tie them. He describes each step simply and clearly in the text and has penned right alongside some 7,000 drawings to make it still more graphic. Mr. Ashley has devoted eleven years to writing this book, and it is based on forty years of looking for, trying out, and thinking up new knots. The author describes knots used in over 90 occupations. His drawings abound in humor and the text is full of colorful anecdotes. This book was first published in 1944 and issued at various dates. Ashley died in 1947, and from the author blurb on the back flap, it states that the at the time of his death a few years ago. I would estimate that this book was printed in the early to mid-1950s. Most of the copies on the market are from a revised edition from 1993. The 1944 first edition is very scarce and the only copy at the time of this writing was priced at over $750. This large book, 620 pages measuring 279mm X 205mm is in near-fine condition. The dust jacket is nice and bright but can only be classed as good because of a missing 30mm X 15mm piece from the top of the front of the jacket. It is now enclosed in a protective mylar wrap. Extra postage will be required on this knotty treasure.

How do you keep your sanity as you spend 11 years writing a book about knots. How can a reader be interested and motivated to buy and read a book about 3,900 knots, when surely a couple of dozen knots will serve one’s needs quite nicely. Humor is the answer. (in the United States, but here in Canada we use “humour” just because we feel obliged to since we are still part of the British Commonwealth).

The book is full of humourous drawings, and it starts with the following guide to notations used to describe certain knots.

And here are some photos of the notations in use plus other quirky drawings. Enjoy!

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