So I received this review copy of Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting, the revised, reprinted and expanded edition. It's taken me a while to figure out what to say about it, because in many ways, it seems like a given to me: if you are a knitter, you will want this in your library. A long time ago, I requested the original edition through inter-library loan (I always do this before I commit to buying a craft book, coincidentally--I firmly believe you should know what you are paying for). It was when I was fairly new to knitting and thought, "well, this is something to work up to, I'll just request it again when the time comes." Of course, I forgot about it, and then Dover had the foresight to reprint it for my (and your) knitting edification.
The new volume is, mostly, better. First of all, the fact that is has been reprinted at all: bonus, I am all for accessibility. The fact that it's in paperback translates to less cost in acquisition, so that's also a good thing, a great thing really, because (as previously mentioned) any knitter is going to want his or her own copy. The new photos of finished projects: great! Who doesn't like good color shots of what a finished sweater should look like? In the original printing, I found many of the men's patterns appealing, in the new printed edition, some of the men's patterns have been sized down to women's sizes, which is a good thing. In fact, the sizing has been reworked for pretty much all of the sweaters--which may or may not make a difference to some, but the new sizing helps to prevent the potato sack effect that some of the patterns had in the original.
There is a new pattern in this edition. Some would say it isn't, really, an Aran knit; but, some knitters won't care, it's a nice design. It has set in sleeves and waist shaping, and anything that helps me not look like I am wearing a potato sack with cables all over it is a win for me, maybe you feel differently about this, I don't know.
I am not gushing over this book, I think it fair to say there was more gushing about the new Knitter's Almanac. For all the good the Aran Knitting revised and expanded reprint presents, there are still some problems (in my humble opinion). When it comes to form and function, the smaller format of the book seems great in theory, but it's a book on Aran knitting, so that means you are going to be looking at charts, wouldn't you want to be able to read the charts? The charts are tiny-sized. Which wouldn't be a problem, but the binding on the paperback is not going to hold up to repeated (any?) photocopying to enlarge charts for your knitting pleasure.
The librarian in me tends to be overly critical about bindings on craft books in general; but, I am hyper-critical with this book because it's a book that, one would imagine, would see a great deal of use. Some would say that you make these sorts of sacrifices when you print a book in paperback, and while this is true to a certain extent, I would have preferred to pay a few more dollars to have this paperback spiral-bound (actually, I still might do this) to make it more usable. But I would not have balked at paying more for a hardcover edition either, because that is the kind of knitter I am. I tend to subscribe to the philosophy of "you get what you pay for." Based on the price--as it applies to the form here--you are, indeed--in my opinion, getting less; but, content-wise, you are getting more. Is that a fair trade? I will leave it to you to decide.
The preface, is interesting (blur added, the actual book is printed clearly), but many knitters aren't going to be over the moon about the contents. The author talks about her contributions to knitting, but it might have been better received had it been written by someone else, as it stands, it comes off as a little condescending. But since the preface makes the book neither more nor less useful, it shouldn't really be a factor for consideration (unless your are a collector of the author's work and you just love her writing--more power to you, collect away).
Most knitters are going to want this book because it will likely add a great breadth of knitting history, technique and style to their library, as well as their knitting practice. And seriously, I can't think of a single knitter that I know that hasn't either knit (or really want to knit) St. Brigid (or maybe Irish Moss, for the gentlemen out there--my 4 year old likes it, and he is quite the arbiter of style).
If you haven't already done so, go out and get yourself a copy, or persuade someone to give it to you for Christmas (or some other gift-giving observance), there's still plenty of time! Books make great gifts, after all.