Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses The Book of Knots

The Book of Knots: book review

In the spirit of fair disclosure I’ll admit to feeling a certain trepidation when asked to review knot books.

This is based entirely on my own cack-handedness and the slight feeling of frontal headache when attempting to follow diagrammatic instructions.

When therefore I opened this neat little volume and read ‘Knots are more numerous than the stars; and equally mysterious and beautiful’ (quote from Dr John Turner 1988) I blenched.

Hastily I checked the number of stars: 100-400 billion in the Milky Way and at least that many planets, says Wikipedia.

I then checked Dr John Turner and discovered he was a mathematician.

That helped: mathematicians are notoriously prone to calculations where Infinity may be a factor.

The book’s introduction mentioned a prize given for work in ‘theoretical knotting’. Ah.

Most yachtsmen value knots for their practical utility.

This book sorts them by construction and typing method rather than function. Its sections therefore are bends, loops, hitches, lashings, coils, stoppers and whippings.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know how to tie a Hangman’s Noose though the knot histories are interesting. I suppose if one had failed to master the Highwayman’s Hitch (for a quick getaway) then one might well discover the special qualities of Jack Ketch’s knot ‘designed to withstand a heavy shock-loading in rope’.

These days its use is for fishermen.

Although practical applications for fishing, sailing and climbing are explained, they are not the primary focus.

This book made me aware of a community of knotting web masters who ‘represent every kind of knot application, from the basic to the bizarre.’

Joint author Geoffrey Budworth is not only a co-founder of the International Guild of Knot Tyers but also ‘created the knot identification method used by forensic scientists in the police force’.

That’s definitely intriguing.

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