This book was written to be a readable introduction to algebraic topology with rather broad coverage of the subject. The viewpoint is quite classical in spirit, and stays well within the confines of pure algebraic topology. In a sense, the book could have been written thirty or forty years ago since virtually everything in it is at least that old. However, the passage of the intervening years has helped clarify what are the most important results and techniques. For example, CW complexes have proved over time to be the most natural class of spaces for algebraic topology, so they are emphasized here much more than in the books of an earlier generation. This emphasis also illustrates the book’s general slant towards geometric, rather than algebraic, aspects of the subject. The geometry of algebraic topology is so pretty, it would seem a pity to slight it and to miss all the intuition it provides.
At the elementary level, algebraic topology separates naturally into the two broad channels of homology and homotopy. This material is here divided into four chapters, roughly according to increasing sophistication, with homotopy split between Chapters 1 and 4, and homology and its mirror variant cohomology in Chapters 2 and 3. These four chapters do not have to be read in this order, however. One could begin with homology and perhaps continue with cohomology before turning to homotopy. In the other direction, one could postpone homology and cohomology until after parts of Chapter 4. If this latter strategy is pushed to its natural limit, homology and cohomology can be developed just as branches of homotopy theory. Appealing as this approach is from a strictly logical point of view, it places more demands on the reader, and since readability is one of the first priorities of the book, this homotopic interpretation of homology and cohomology is described only after the latter theories have been developed independently of homotopy theory.