This book first appeared in 1963 and quickly become quite popular. As its title claims, it is intended as an introduction and is appropriate for undergraduate students with some knowledge of abstract topology. It is completely self-contained. To achieve that, some chapters are dedicated to introduce from scratch certain topics in algebraic topology (e.g. fundamental groups) or algebra (e.g. presentations of groups). This makes the book very accessible. Nevertheless each chapter contains detailed proofs as well as a set of exercises, some of which may be challenging for the beginner.
Probably the best review of this book was written by R. Crowell himself, in his preface to the 1977 edition: “the book could be certainly be rewritten by including more material and also by introducing topics in a more elegant and up-to-date style. […] this book achieves qualities of effectiveness, brevity, elementary character, and unity. These characteristics would be jeopardized, if not lost, in a major revision”.
This search for simplicity has some drawbacks. For instance, the Alexander polynomials are introduced in a way that, while it is perfectly suitable for computations, make them a bit mysterious; where do they come from? In order to motivate their construction, one should ultimately go further and introduce homology groups of covering spaces. One would lose the elementary character, but would gain a deeper understanding.
Summing up, I think this is a great book for the beginner who is looking for a quick overview and who wants to taste the flavour of the theory. Afterwards, the no-more beginner will turn to more advanced and complete textbooks (for example, Lickorish’s Introduction to Knot Theory, Springer, Graduate Texts in Mathematics 175).
Fabio Mainardi earned a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Paris 13. His research interests are mainly Iwasawa theory, p-adic L-functions and the arithmetic of automorphic forms. At present, he works in a "classe préparatoire" in Geneva. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 1. Knots and Knot Types
Chapter 2. The Fundamental Group
Chapter 3. The Free Groups
Chapter 4. Presentation of Groups
Chapter 5. Calculation of Fundamental Groups
Chapter 6. Presentation of a Knot Group
Chapter 7. The Free Calculus and the Elementary Ideals
Chapter 8. The Knot Polynomials
Chapter 9. Characteristic Properties of the Knot Polynomials
Appendix I. Differentiable Knots are Tame
Appendix II. Categories and groupoids
Appendix III. Proof of the van Kampen theorem
Guide to the Literature