American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Ashely Book of Knots

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1945

The Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford W. Ashley 4vo., 619 pages, fully illustrated. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1944. Price $7.50.

If the would-be reader is told that close to 4000 knots are written up in this book, each with one or more illustrations, and explanations of how to tie them, he will probably think it is a dry encyclopedia. But Ashley not only breaks the subject down into groups of knots used by each of 85 occupations (and sports), but points out which are the strong knots, which the best, which are dangerous for the uninitiated to essay; and here and there bits of history are brought in, so that anyone can pick up the book and spend a delightful fifteen minutes or two hours, as he likes, reading one section, or comparing many sections.

Of interest to mountaineers, for instance, for abseil with a single piece of rope only long enough to reach bottom—his Slippery Hitch Will strike fear in the hearts of the authors of the Handbook on Mountaineering—his slipped half hitch and slipped buntline hitch, requiring a doubled rope, have possibilities for roping off without using any bight or ring. The second length of rope could be light line, even twine.

His “Harness Loop” is the approved middleman’s noose for roping, and when it comes to a bowline on a bight, he shows three ways of tying one.

For ski poles, he has a pretty little trick way of fastening a rawhide strap; for ski and climbing boots, how to lace them so that no cord crosses in contact with the instep. All the packing hitches are there, with cowboy knots, game and fish ties, fishermen’s knots, circus and tent hitches; prospectors’ slings; even a couple of poachers knots for snaring game.

The accessibility of the material is vouched for by the index of some 2000 entries, and a glossary of some 400 words, and a large bibliography, all of which fully bears out the claim to this being both a thoroughly authoritative and, at the same time, practical encyclopedia of knots, representing many years effort of its down-east New England author.

In reviewing it, I could only find an occasional unimportant typographical error; but in one item, when Mr. Ashley comes to analyze heavy purchase block and tackle, he points out that 5% of the applied power is lost on each shiv, and, therefore, on a tenfold purchase Smeaton’s block 100% of the power will be lost. That, of course, is not mathematics. 5% of the original 100% would be lost on the first shiv, leaving 95% ; then 5% of 95% at the next, leaving 90I/4%, than 5% of that, etc., etc., so that, after 20 shivs, there would still be about 36% of the power left. However, let not this be a serious black mark against so unusual and excellent a work.

J. E. F.

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