Clifford W. Ashley

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Clifford Warren Ashley (born December 18, 1881 in New Bedford, Massachusetts; † September 18, 1947 in Westport, Massachusetts) was an American sailor, painter, and writer of non-fiction.


Reprint (1979) of the Ashley Book of Knots

After training as a fine artist, Clifford W. Ashley wrote a study, The Yankee Whaler, about whaling in New England in the late 18th century and early 19th century. The study resulted from an assignment by Harper’s Monthly Magazine, published in 1906, for which Ashley himself went to sea on a whaler.
In 1932 he married Sarah Scudder Clarke.
In addition to his paintings and drawings of maritime life, Clifford W. Ashley became famous above all for his book The Ashley Book of Knots (1944), which is still considered a standard work today. For this book, he collected, sketched and annotated more than 3800 knots, mainly from seafaring, over a period of eleven years.
Two years after suffering a stroke, Ashley died in 1947.

Some of his works are now on display at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the city’s public library. Mount Ashley, a mountain on the island of South Georgia, is named in his honor.


  • The Yankee Whaler. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1926.
  • Whaleships of New Bedford. Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1929
  • The Ashley Book of Knots. Doubleday, New York 1944.
    • german edition: Das Ashley-Buch der Knoten. Over 3800 knots. What they look like. What they are used for. How they are made. Special edition. Hamburg: Edition Maritim, 2005, ISBN 3-89225-527-X
  • Elton Wayland Hall (ed.): Sperm Whaling from New Bedford: Clifford W. Ashley’s Photographs of Bark Sunbeam in 1904. Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford [1982].

Web links

Commons: Clifford Warren Ashley– Collection of images, videos and audio files