To be familiar with a task.
Up until the 20th Century sailing ships had vast numbers of ropes and a crewman would not be effective unless he 'knew all the ropes'.
The first known appearance in print is in Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before The Mast in 1840, in which he wrote 'the captain, who ....knew the ropes, took the steering oar.'
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I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking something up and finding something else ...
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Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.