by Adam Hart-Davis, Illustrated by Paul Boston
Collins & Brown (London), 2009 ISBN 978-1-84340-548-1
The author is an award-winning UK writer and broadcaster best known for his amusing yet informative science and history TV programs. This book, after the customary preamble on cordage materials, construction and terms, features a useful selection of 30 or so stopper and reef knots, bends, hitches loops and whippings. Knotting instruction is however merely the warm-up to an eclectic assortment of twine-related trivia (his phrase), complemented by apt and often humorous drawings.
Scenes of cordage utilization include: art and craft, sport, farming and animal husbandry, religion and folklore, math and music, food preparation, science, circus and theatre, as well as in the home, garage or garden and at sea. Instances of such uses are as disparate and diverse as polishing silver with string; a DIY seismograph; string vests; how the megalith statues on Easter Island may have been transported; string theory and a space elevator; world record balls of string; also lacing footwear for fun and fashion.
Adam Hart-Davis’s book concludes with a couple of dozen cordage-related websites and an effective index.
Adam Hart-Davis is probably better known in the UK for his histori-cal series of television programmes on the BBC. This little gem caught my eye in a National Trust bookshop, where its price was considerably reduced giving a hint that it may now be on the remainders list. Glancing inside the cover of this 190-page book, I was soon gleaning odd facts about string and knots that had previously eluded me. Thus it ended up as part of my collection.
The book is lavishly illustrated with cartoon drawings giving a host of facts, both historical and modern, with ways that string (and rope) plays its part in our everyday world and has helped create our past. There is little of the dry stuffy text that fills many knot books, and this should ap-peal to young and old readers alike.
It tells how string has been (and is) used in music, religion, games and surveying among other subjects. In the Loopy Science chapter, mention is made of string theory, solar energy ropes and HASTOL (Hypersonic Airplane Space Tether Orbital Launch), all of which I knew nothing about until reading this book.
There is a chapter on useful knots, bends and hitches, and how to tie them. The IGKT and the International String Figure Association also get a mention in the section of useful websites.
While this may not be a must have for the serious knot tyer, it is a light hearted read and full of useful facts to bring up when engaging the public in conversation about knots.