677: String by Adam Hart-Davis

by Gerard


677.71. Hart-Davis, Adam. String: Unraveling the History of a Twisted Piece of Twine. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest, 2009. 187 pp. ISBN 978-1-60652-024-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 670: Manufacturing
  • 677: Textiles
  • 677.7: Cordage, trimmings, and allied products
  • 677.71: Ropes, twines, and strings

Somebody has written a book on the manufacture and uses of string and twine throughout history. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and so it has. Adam Hart-Davis’s String looks at not only the history of string and twine, but the intricate ways that humanity has engineered it to fit its needs. From the oldest cotton strings to modern polymerized nylon, string exists in our collective history as a largely unrecognized product, but Hart-Davis does his best to bring it to the light.

Unfortunately, the downfall of such a book is that the history of string manufacture is incredibly short, so much of the book falls into the “uses of string” side. Egyptians used string tools to align the pyramids, the Polynesians used rope to move and place the Easter Island statues, and the Incas used knotted rope necklaces to keep accounts of various cities. Nowadays, string and rope is involved in toy-making, carpentry, cooking, gardening, boating, and fashion accessories. This book also devotes a fair amount of space to knot-making, as different knots can aid in different applications. From there, we see string used in musical instruments, sailing, science, sports, farming, and folklore.

This book is about as long as a book on string needs to be. I truly feel that there is not much else to say on the matter. Hart-Davis scours history for all the uses of twine products and leaves no stone unturned. If you’re looking for a quick diversion after some particularly heady reading, this one will do. At least one string related fact will stick in your mind when you’re done. A quick and easy book.