After more than a dozen months and many thousands of hours of grinding work consuming countless evenings, Chris and my reviewer/readers received the final installment of a complete rough draft text manuscript of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.”
At this point, the material for this first volume has been 100 precent translated by Michele, I have edited and annotated it and returned it to her for a second pass, and we have made it ready for its limited (five recipients) editorial distribution. There are still many rounds to go, making sure our new English version presents accurately the tenor and substance of the original, and that the new annotations and still-in-development photo essays result in these becoming “must have” books for everyone interested in historical furniture craftsmanship.
For now, Chris and his posse have the task of familiarizing themselves with approximately 450 legal-sized pages of text and illustrations to enable the strategic editing, design and marketing decisions necessary for the production of the volume. It is probably akin to legislation and sausage making: it’s best not to watch.
My critical readers have an entirely different responsibility. Their goal is to help ensure that “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” is much more than a simple recitation of historical materials and techniques (as remarkable as that would be all by itself). Yes, it will present faithfully the seminal historical treatise, but it will also serve as a contemporary guide for today’s artisans wishing to employ the techniques of 250 years ago. My readers’ charge, then, is to provide critical feedback from the artisan’s perspective on whether or not the illustrated annotated manuscript accomplishes that goal. In some cases it is as simple as telling me whether some passage of text actually makes sense; in others it is to suggest additional or different illustrations for the photo essays demonstrating the techniques. This conversation will undoubtedly be ongoing until after the book hits the shelves.
I appreciate the many offers to read and comment on the book-in-progress, and I may just take some of you up on them!
This project has proceeded out-of-order much like a movie, which is rarely filmed in the order of the final product beginning with shooting minute one and concluding with minute 120 (or minute 6,483 in the case of “Lord of the Rings”). Movies are generally filmed in a manner most amenable to logistics, and are not woven together until long after most of the participants have moved on to other endeavors.
As I can now step back just a bit and browse the completed rough manuscript for the first volume of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” in its desired order for the very first time, I feel my excitement building all over again. Such enthusiasm waned occasionally in the middle of the night after spending several hours reconstructing a single transliterated paragraph or page into comprehensible artisan-friendly American English – some really tough passages were left with more red ink than black type on the page.
It is truly an astounding compilation of knowledge, and as one of my readers exclaimed just a couple days ago in response to the gigantic chapter on Boulle-work techniques,
“This information goes DEEP. These are the ‘lost’ techniques that I currently crave.”
That pretty much brings you up to date on “To Make as Perfectly as Possible,” the culmination of my decades of interest, scholarship,and craft related to veneering, engraved brass and tortoiseshell Boulle-work.
About the only thing that gives me as much satisfaction as learning is the delight in sharing it with you. I will be teaching Boulle-work at Marc Adams’ school in September and also at Woodworking in America 2010, and veneer and marquetry restoration at DCTC in Rosemount, Minn., in July (www.woodfinishing.org). I hope to see many of you there
And no, I still don’t read a lick of French!
— Don Williams