To Make as Perfectly as Time Allows


After seven hours we have completed reviewing the galley proofs (the mock-up of the book pages as they will appear in print) for the first chapter of “To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.” To put it simply, the layout design is sumptuous. Book designer Wesley Tanner is brilliant at making our efforts look beautiful.

Much like making sausage or enacting legislation, there is much to cause you to avert your eyes when gazing on the business of book making. To give you a peek at what is going on just now, let me recount our current labors.

In most instances for most books, the author(s) only have to review the galleys to make sure 1) it says what they want it to say and submitted in the first place, and 2) catch any typos or editorial mistakes. When translating and annotating a historic volume, it is a bit more complicated. Sometimes when working our way through the stack of pages we come to the conclusion that we were using a wrong word or phrase, and it has to be changed throughout to make it the best book possible. At the least, this causes editors and designers to gnash their teeth. In a worst-case scenario they might start poking little rag dolls with long straight pins.

We settled on what we believe to be an excellent procedure. Because we have to compare the galleys to both our annotated text manuscript and the original volume of 240 years ago, it is a long slog. In order to pull all the pieces together I read each line aloud slowly and clearly while Michele followed along by reading the original French text simultaneously. In the hour-upon-hour of reading this aloud, the full import of the project became apparent.

Through this multi-sensory experience of reading, hearing and speaking, the grandeur of Roubo’s monumental effort becomes clear. Honestly, for the first time – after silently reading the text (10, 15, 20 times?) I understood more fully several passages I already thought I knew, but I was wrong. As the old-time evangelists used to say, “Knowing something in your head and knowing something in your heart are not the same things.” The rhythm of reading it out loud at a steady but deliberate pace caused many descriptions to become a real practice, not simply an articulate description.

This delight of new understanding keeps the task of reviewing from being tedious. I am not used to reading out loud for several hours.

In the end the book will be one with which we will be pleased, yet know also that there will be changes we could envision to make it better. To tell you the truth, if we had the fulfill a deadline of 10 years from Tuesday, we would be working until 10 years from Monday to make it better, and still it would not be perfect.

Unfortunately that’s just the way it is, and we recognize that some readers will find typos or homonyms that no one else found, and others will not like the way we phrased a particular translation or will object to some sections we chose not to include. We will have to reconcile with ourselves that in a world of limited resources, we did the best we could.

Onto the next chapter.

— Don Williams

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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13 Responses to To Make as Perfectly as Time Allows

  1. edhresko says:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

    One note…I didn’t quote TR to imply the project is or will be failure…far from it! I quoted him because the underlying meaning behind the passage is that daring to achieve what is most difficult and not achieving perfection is far better than to never try at all.


  2. Jonas Jensen says:

    I am impressed with the idea of reading it out aloud.
    Just reading a bedtime story to my youngest son always makes me yawn after 2 pages. Then again after 4 etc. But I suppose you don’t have too look at someone comfortably lying in the bed while you are reading.
    Are you taping (or whatever it is called) the reading, so there will be a cd following, kind of like Roy Underhill reading “The joiner and cabinetmaker”?
    Keep up the good work.


    • tsstahl says:

      Spoken word marquetry?
      You _really_ want to abdicate your bed time reading, don’t you?


    • Don Williams says:

      Since we interrupt ourselves frequently, or stop to write notes on the galley page, no, we are not recording these sessions. But, I am not opposed to the concept. Perhaps I will record a short session and send it to Chris for consideration of doing the larger work, or simply leave it in the hands of a more mellifluous voice. Since much of the text refers to illustrations and locations within those illustrations, I am not entirely sure how that would work.


  3. Patrick J Ahern says:

    Thank you all for what you are doing. I am anxiously looking forward to the day I walk out to the mail box and find my copy.


    Patrick Ahern


  4. Bruce says:

    I’d like to second the idea of an ‘audio’ book/cd. Then you can listen to the work while relaxing without being crushed by the mass of paper. Also easier to listen on public transport while juggling a book, or driving down the road……..


  5. Nathan Beal says:

    I forget how far back this was from, but there was a time where people considered the only right way of reading to be reading aloud. People, even when alone, simply did not read text to echo around in their heads. Text was meant to preserve the spoken word so that it could be spoken aloud once again.


  6. Bob Davidson says:

    I really appreciate the Lost Art Press’s dedication to quality and longevity in a world dominated too heavily by a “throw away” mentality.


  7. Josh says:

    Will there be a kindle version of this book?


  8. AL Ondic says:

    Don & company, appreciate the Roubo translation effort you have taken on. Thanks.


  9. Jack Bazemore says:

    After the book is published, will you be offering any of the images for sale, as in posters?


  10. I look forward to the end and to being able to have my own copy of your great work. Thanks for the effort and time.


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