TQC. Total Quality Control. One of the mantras of modern manufacturing. It's micro-managing at it's ultimate. What did the 18th Century tradesman do to maintain manufacturing quality control? Maybe not all that much.
I've been working on the production of a digital version of Joseph Moxon's famous tome, Mechanick Exercises, or, The Doctrine of Handy-Works. Published as a complete book as the third edition in 1703 (previously published in bits and pieces), Moxon was the first book of it's kind to really dig into the nitty-gritty of How-To for the trades. Sort of an early approach to socializing information distribution through the printed word. We venerate Moxon as the font from which all trades lore rose. Or spilled. I'm not sure what happens with fonts. But, and there is always a but, in working with this book to produce a PDF, I have found that my veneration of the Master has undergone a change.
To clarify my statement... the content is as amazing as always. The Make, or the way the book was put together sheds a different light on early literature for the trades. We're used to reading modern reprints of the classics. Nice, clean, off-white or slightly yellowed paper, sharp print and clean engraved plates, book jackets and instructional introductions. A table of contents even and maybe an index. Now, back to reality.
Text blocks are all over the place. Off-center, skewed, even different type at times. Some pages show bleed-through from the printer applying too much ink. Other pages display type imprints from the preceding page when too much pressure was applied. Some text is dark and some is light. You can even see the shadow of print on facing pages when someone didn't let the ink dry properly before folding the paper. Paper quality changes throughout the book. Maybe the printer was using up left over stock? The book is bound in nicely blind tooled leather (blind tooling is decoration impressed in the leather with heated irons, lacking gold leaf or other coloration). But. Again a But. The bookbinder didn't seem to care to take time to get the gutters even or correct any mistakes made during printing. At least one page inner edge is torn, folded and bound.
This book was made for hard use and for cheap sales. Neither the printer, nor the book-binder nor the publisher seemed to care to take the time to produce what we seem to expect from 'classic' books. This is like the Sterling Press of book production for the early 1700's. Don't get me wrong, it is an incredible experience to hold in your hands and read an original copy of Moxon, complete with finger smudges, turned edges and darkened corners from work-stained fingers. I now know that this was the Audels Carpentry and Building of it's day, or maybe the Print-On-Demand newsprint copy of Charles Dickens?
When the PDF version is ready for sale, I'll most likely include a package of Dramamine in case anyone gets sea-sick while reading the helter-skelter text. I'm also wondering what the 18th Century equivalent of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was... there are some finger-prints in there that look strangely Crunchy...