Mankind”s ability to tie knots probably pre-dates human beings capacity to make fire and to talk intellectually. Our cave dwelling predecessors’ would have had many uses for a few simple knots.
Different varieties of knots would have been widely used by primitive cultures to form snares, nets and traps for capturing food. The construction of shelters and weapons, the making of clothing, the capability to move and pull heavy loads, all would have required sturdy and trustworthy knots to have been used. Throughout history knots have played there part, from the construction of iconic structures such as the great Egyptian Pyramids and the Colosseum of Rome, to the first ascents of the worlds highest peaks and the initial descents into the depths of the worlds below.
Historically, the methods of tying some knots would have been learnt at a young age and passed down from generation to generation, just like when you were shown how to tie your shoe laces, or the first time you learnt how to tie your school tie. Knots were often called different names in different regions, and depending on how and what they were used for. As far as records indicate the first documented and printed books on knot tying were the formal seamanship manuals of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.
One of the most prominent publications to date is the ‘Ashley Book Of Knots’ (ISBN 0-385-04025-3), an encyclopedia of knots first published in 1944 by artist, author, sailor, and knot expert Clifford Warren Ashley (1881-1947). The book which is seen by many as the ultimate knot bible is an accumulation of over 11 years of work by the author. It contains in excess of 7000 illustrations and almost 4000 entries covering over 2000 individual knots, contained within are instructions, uses and in some instances historic data.
Ashley went to great lengths in compiling the vast amount of information that the publication required, in doing so he categorized knots by type and usage and also differentiated between good knots and poor. Each knot entry was assigned a reference number, these references are still used today in the universal identification of knots as knot names have evolved and are sometimes conflicting or confusing.
Citations to Ashley knot references are usually given in the form of: “The Constrictor Knot (ABOK #1249), ABOK #1249 or even simply #1249, some knots may have more than one Ashley number due to having multiple uses or forms. The actual title of the book itself is also sometimes abbreviated and can be referred to as: TABOK, TABoK, ABOK and ABoK. Revisions to the original edition were last undertaken in 1979 when the book was last reprinted.