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Thou Shalt Knot - Clifford W.Ashley exhibit

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The Ashley Book of Knots, first published in 1944 contains nearly 7,000 illustrations of over 3,000 knots. (The book is now entering public dpomain - RS)

Ashley spent time aboard whaling ships, including the Sunbeam for a piece commissioned by Harper’s Monthly Magazine. In addition to writing about the industry and sketching its knots, he photographed the vessels and crews, creating a rare archive of the early 20th-century New England maritime trade. For his book research, he tried to get as broad an overview of knots as possible, visiting the circus, fishermen, bakers, tree surgeons, and anyone else who employed this technology in their work.

Ashley examined old seamen’s dictionaries, and became an expert knot tyer himself. As he wrote in The Ashley Book of Knots:

… I have continued to collect knots wherever I could find them, and as unfamiliar sailors’ knots became increasingly difficult to find I was attracted by the knots of other occupations. I hobnobbed with butchers and steeple jacks, cobblers and truck drivers, electric linesmen, Boy Scouts, and with elderly ladies who knit. Mr. Ringling himself … took me about his circus and was pleased to be able to dazzle me with a score of knots with which I was quite unfamiliar.

Thou Shalt Knot: Clifford W. Ashley  exhibit continues at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts) through June 2018. (Hmmm, a trip idea to pass along to PLC - RS)


Clifford W. Ashley was an artist who studied under the influential illustrator Howard Pyle, painted expressive maritime scenes, and published histories of whaling related to the waterfront of his hometown, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Yet he’s best remembered for a wildly popular book on knots.



Edited by RememberSchiff
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