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The Ashley Book of Knots

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Title: The Ashley Book of Knots  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Knot, Butterfly loop, Hangman's knot, Miller's knot, Constrictor knot
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The Ashley Book of Knots

Although Ashley was an esteemed painter, the cover illustration was painted by George Giguere. It shows a sailor displaying a Tom fool's knot.
Reprint-Version: 1963–1979

The Ashley Book of Knots is an encyclopedia of knots written and illustrated by the American artist Clifford W. Ashley. First published in 1944, it was the culmination of over 11 years of work. The book contains more than 3800 numbered entries and an estimated 7000 illustrations.[1] The entries include knot instructions, uses, and some histories, categorized by type or function. It remains one of the most important and comprehensive books on knots.


  • Use as a reference 1
  • Corrections and additions 2
  • Further reading 3
  • Notes and references 4

Use as a reference

Due to its scope and wide availability The Ashley Book of Knots has become a significant reference work in the field of knotting. The numbers Ashley assigned to each knot can be used to unambiguously identify them. This helps to identify knots despite local colloquialisms or identification changes. Citations to Ashley numbers are usually in the form: "The Constrictor Knot (ABOK #1249)", "ABOK #1249" or even simply "#1249" if the context of the reference is clear or already established.[2] The book title is also found abbreviated in the forms: TABOK, TABoK or ABoK.

Some knots have more than one Ashley number due to having multiple uses or forms. For example, the main entry for #1249 is in the chapter on binding knots but it is also listed as #176 in a chapter on occupational knot usage.

The Ashley Book of Knots was published in the days of natural fiber cordage; the commentary on some knots may fail to address their behavior when tied in modern synthetic fiber ropes.

Corrections and additions

Ashley suffered a debilitating stroke the year after his magnum opus was published.[3] He was not able to produce an erratum or oversee a corrected edition. Corrections submitted by the International Guild of Knot Tyers were incorporated in 1991.[4][5] The original list of revisions submitted to the publisher is believed to have been lost, but many had been collected from a series of articles in Knotting Matters, the Guild's quarterly publication.[6][7] Additional errors have been identified since the 1991 corrections.[8]

At least one knot, the Hunter's bend (#1425A), was added in 1979.[9]

Further reading

  • Clifford W. Ashley. The Ashley Book of Knots. Doubleday, New York 1944. ISBN 0-385-04025-3
  • Reprint: Doubleday, New York 1963–1979, ISBN 0-571-09659-X

Notes and references

  1. ^ Ashley, Clifford W. (1993) [1944], The Ashley Book of Knots, New York: Doubleday, p.  
  2. ^ Warner, Charles; Turner, John (1996), Turner, J.C.; van de Griend, P., eds., History and Science of Knots, K&E Series on Knots and Everything 11, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, pp. 22, 274–275,  
  3. ^ Budworth, Geoffrey, ed. (Spring 1985). "Profile of Knotsman Clifford W. Ashley". Knotting Matters (London: International Guild of Knot Tyers) (11): 6–7.  
  4. ^ Budworth, Geoffrey (Autumn 1991). "Amending Ashley". Knotting Matters (London: International Guild of Knot Tyers) (37): 26.  
  5. ^ Ashley(1993), p. Edition notice
  6. ^ Schmidbauer, Joseph, ed. (September 1998), "The Ashley Book of Knots: Corrections and Observations", Knot News (International Guild of Knot Tyers - Pacific Americas Branch) (13): 1–3 
  7. ^ The Knotting Matters issues cited in the above Knot News article are: KM1, KM28, KM31, KM32, and KM33.
  8. ^ For an example see the footnotes in harness loop and butterfly loop articles. Additionally, this IGKT posting contains many verifiable examples.
  9. ^ Ashley(1993), pp. 260–261
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