This is not a book for the complete beginner who seeks only to learn a dozen knots for a dozen purposes and no more. The nearest you'll get to that is Knots (Klutz)
. Nor is it, as the title claims, an "Ultimate Encyclopedia". If you want that, you want Ashley's Book of Knots
. But you don't want Ashley's book - whilst complete and authoritative, it's the knotting geek's equivalent of a telephone directory.
The book you are considering is a book for the complete beginner who wants to learn a few basic knots, but who is also interested in exploring beyond the reef knot, the clove hitch, and the bowline. (Which is a good thing - these basic knots are often neither as secure nor as strong as people generally believe). It's also a book for the person who already has the basic knots under his belt, and wants to learn more. It's a book for anyone who takes pleasure in the physical tying of knots and in their simple (sometimes) beauty.
The knots are arranged by type - bend, hitch, binding, loop, decorative etc rather than by typical user - climber, sailor, fisherman etc. This makes sense as some knots will be useful to more than one type of user. But each knot has a climbing ' sailing ' fishing etc icon next to it to indicate usefulness.
All the old favourites such as the bowline are there, plus variants - eg double bowline, water bowline, 6 other bowlines, and a justification, where appropriate, for bothering with their increased complexity. Sometimes, as in the case of the granny knot, the thief knot, and the grief knot, the justification is so that you can recognise a bad knot when you see it!
You'd think all these variants would make it more confusing, but I found the more knots I learned, the easier it was to remember them, and indeed to learn yet more knots.
What makes this book stand out from other knot books is the quality of the presentation. The photography is crisp and well-lit throughout, and rather than producing just a series of photos of knots against plain backgrounds, the photographer, Rodney Forte, has introduced rusty old anchors, driftwood, ancient oak working tables with battered surfaces, old sailing bits and pieces etc. This is never obtrusive, and lends the book charm, texture and colour. The knots themselves use all kinds of rope, including climbing tape, though sometimes I found that the multicolours of climbing ropes could make it harder to see which rope went where.
Whilst it's too big to take fishing or climbing, its size means it stays open while you tie your knots. Smaller books need to be spiral bound or they have a nasty habit of shutting just as you reach the tricky bit.
Flaws: (And I will be very picky here, as the book is otherwise superb)
1. Geoffrey Budworth appears to be left-handed. At least, the knots are usually tied left-handed. I had to mentally invert many of the images and instructions in order to match my right-handedness.
2. The knots are not tied consistently. That is, sometimes Mr B will start by looping the rope to the left, sometimes to the right. If there was a reason for this (beyond variation for the sake of it?) I could understand, but there appears not to be. Having to remember to start some knots one way and some another made it harder for me to learn them. Eventually, I went back and effectively re-wrote instructions to achieve a consistent approach.
3. Often, Mr B breaks the initial, simple steps of a knot into several stages and photos where one would do. A couple of times, conversely, he tries to do too much in one step at a later, more complicated stage. A change of emphasis would be beneficial.
4. Sometimes the working end of the rope is out-of-camera or obscured by a hand. This makes it harder to see what is going on.
5. Near the front of the book is a discussion of rope materials and a simple yet informative table showing, for nylon, polyester etc; Strength, Elasticity, Resistance to abrasion, UV light etc. A similar table, on an inevitably larger scale, would have been hugely useful for the knots themselves. It could rate each knot for Strength, Security, Ease of Tying, Ease of Untying, "Notes" - eg "Easily confused with xxx". Whilst most knots have their strengths and weaknesses pointed out in their accompanying text, a separate overview would have been beneficial.
In addition to these general points, a couple of more specifics:
The Alpine Butterfly (an important climbing knot) p185:
Step 4 jumps a step and is completely confusing.
The Midshipman's Hitch p195: Step 6 can mislead.
Page 14: "this century" needs to read "the 20th century" (told you I was being picky)
These criticisms combine to drop the book from 5 stars to 4. But it's still a great purchase. Of its type - "big book of knots", it's easily the best I've seen. The next-best is Des Pawson's Handbook of Knots: Expanded Edition
. Smaller, more portable, better for splices, but overall not as good as Budworth's Encyclopaedia.