I am somewhat amused ex post by the parallels between our first conversations about creating “To Make As Perfectly As Possible” and Roubo’s struggles to create a set of volumes that people would actually purchase. His success is pretty self evident in that we still find his work compelling after two-and-a-half centuries. It certainly sets a high bar for us in bringing him to new generations.
— Don Williams
One of the biggest obstacles that I have had to overcome is the cry of the public against big books, which they won’t buy because they are too expensive, or they buy but don’t read because they are too voluminous. But how could I do otherwise? Should I fool the Public in pandering to their taste but against their interests by giving them an abridged and consequently less expensive edition, but where they will learn nothing, or at the most only words or names of the arts? (*)
(*) What I say here is the incontestable truth: nothing has done more wrong to the sciences and the Arts, than the condensed abridged editions that have been given to workers already, or even the new works done in this manner. I therefore believe it wise to give to my work all the expanse appropriate, at least as far as my strength has permitted me, in order to be useful in the present and for the future by not obliging the Public to make a double expense, as happens every day, with the increases and revisions that one makes to most of the works where there are multiple editions thus augmented, which becomes very costly and still remains quite imperfect.
What’s more, it is not possible, for as little as this work has been read, provided that one be of good faith and without prejudice – it is not possible, I say, to not confirm that the details of the different types of woodworking is immense. However concise it be in detail, it must still be considerable. It is not the work that is in question here, like history or fantasy, where one is content to expose facts to the eyes of the reader or to amuse him, but where one leaves him the liberty to make application of what he has read, in not preventing him from his own judgment, which would become boring to the reasonable reader.
Here, on the contrary, and in the description of all the arts in general, where it is a question of teaching, one must not only tell everything, but tell how it is done, and why it is done. Showing the different ways of operating every day, and in making visible the advantages and the disadvantages, and the situations where one method is preferable to another, requires describing the minutiae of works of art, whether whole or in part.