Great Knots and How to Tie Them, by Derrick Lewis
Sterling Publishing 1999 ISBN 9780806948607
The blurb that accompanies this book suggests that it contains (in just 128 pages) “Over 175 of the most useful, practical and decorative knots ever collected in one book” (Devotees of Ashley might possibly disagree). It seems more likely, however, that the publishers were not altogether clear about their intended readership, and have cast their net wide. The result is a lighthearted, superficial and somewhat uneven book, parts of which could be of use to people who are new to any one of a number of leisure activities. A basic glossary of forty-five terms is included at the start of the book. The Table of Contents indicates four sections labelled Tie It Simple, Tie It Fancy, Tie It Sporty and Tie It Useful. Each section is of course sub-divided, so that Tie It Sporty, in the space of thirtythree pages, purports to cover knots for fishing, climbing, boating, horses and camping. One result of this somewhat arbitrary classification is that many knots are not where one would expect them to be; the bowline family, for example, is not grouped with basic knots but with boating knots, while three other varieties of bowline are found among knots for climbing. Where a sequence of instructions is to be followed, the text is clearly tied to the accompanying illustrations; the sequences are usually clear, although sometimes the starting point assumes a greater degree of competence than the average reader (including this reviewer) has in fact achieved. In addition to step-by step diagrams (using blue, brown and tan in multi-strand knots) there are many photographs showing the completed knot in use. The pages are clear and uncluttered, making the book attractive to handle. The indexing is interesting. Where a knot is known by a number of names, these are listed in alphabetical order when the knot is described - and each one is included in the index. Some, but not all, of the alternative names can be confirmed by reference to Ashley; The Carrick bend, for example, appears eight times in the index - which therefore contains about three hundred entries for the indicated one hundred and seventy-five knots. This, then, is a book for leisure reading and for those seeking or starting a new pastime; in particular the Tie It Fancy section contains ideas for simple decorative knotting which younger readers might well wish to attempt.
Great Knots, I Think Not!
Regrettably, the review of this book given by Tony Robinson (KM76) gave some slight promotion to a book that ought to be roundly censured; I quickly write here to set the record straight on this. The Lewis book contains only cursory information about each of its “175 knots”, in many cases just a sentence to equate one name with another entry. The computer-drawn images for steps in tying each knot crude, often unhelpful, and sometimes 46 incorrect. The photos purportedly of the tied knots in use are often of unseemly materials for the knots, and also often incorrect--sometimes egregiously so! One can find errors on nearly every page. I’ve identified errors (from minor to severe) in 91 of the individual knot entries, as well as in the front matter of the book. There are surely further errors yet to be found e.g., for haywire twist - an angling knot for wire, something so simple to both illustrate and describe - Lewis shows a comical twisted bit of cord through a fishhook (not in any way resembling the knot), and provides diagrams & textual advice equally lacking in accuracy: “Make a bight and twist the end around standing part. Bring standing part up through first twist to secure”; and then he shows a knot that looks like a figure eight stopper! Or, for the hangman’s noose, his photograph shows, rather, a hank of rope (with its multiple coils and an end, hanging down, and two ends running up off the top of the photo)! One gets the sense that there was some separation of two or more persons responsible for this book, with one supplying text and other images, which often conflicted, though each seems equally ill informed. I cannot imagine a Scout or other student doing a knot project, with such errors as Lewis makes, getting a passing or satisfactory grade, rather than being rebuked for the shoddy work and told to start over! In short, it is the worst knot book I have ever seen: as the first review of Lewis on Amazon.com says, “buy something else - anything else!” R. Danford Lehman