It's only taken 306 years, but finally, Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, or The Doctrine of Handy-Works is well on it's way to seeing the 21st Century as a digital document. After many stops and starts, backfires and flat tires, the master files are at the media printer. I'll receive a check copy later this week. If all goes well, the Real Deal will be ready to go live and for sale.
Producing a facsimile version has been an interesting exercise in digital imaging and PDF production. Getting the balance between file size, OCR, image textures, legibility and usability has been a long road. My goal was and is to produce facsimile reproductions. By facsimile, I mean a reprint that offers the reader the experience of enjoying all the idiosyncracies of the original book. Although cleaned of dirt, flattened as much as possible and image adjusted for contrast, the Mechanick Exercises PDF retains the finger prints, margin notes, creases, stains and textures that tell you this is the real thing (even if it is a reproduction).
I've never been a fan of super duper cleaned up reprints. You know the type. The page background is sparkly clean, the letters are sharp and the editors have corrected 'errors'. While I like a book to be as free of foxing, creases, stains and marks as possible, I find that reading those same blemishes can tell me a great deal of the history of the readers of the book. Dog-eared corners tell me what part someone liked, or where the day's reading ended. Finger prints on covers give an identity to the book. Margin notes personalize the book in focusing my attention on the thoughts of a prior reader.
This copy of Mechanick Exercises was owned in the early 18th Century by the Studd family. I have yet to figure out who they where, but the hunt goes on. Three members of the Studd family saw fit to sign the book (although Mary Studd may have been doodling). The book was of sufficient importance to the family that two members signed both the front and back inside covers. Although there are a few notes penned within the text, the book is remarkably free of scribbles. That alone tells me of the important role this book played in the lives of the owners. The covers, while worn and in some places devoid of leather, are original. Even the spine retains 75% of the leather. For a book that was meant to be used as a working guide, the overall condition indicates the intrinsic value prior owners assigned to it.
I recently came into ownership of Thomas Martin's Circle of the Mechanical Arts (1815). In the preface, Martin comments on the scarcity of Moxon as part of his rationale for updating and expanding upon the subjects covered in Mechanick Exercises. Barely 100 years after it's publication, Mechanick Exercises was already a scarce but saught after volume.
For a teaser of the Mechanick Exercises PDF, stop by the Toolemera eStore. If all goes well, the full CD will be available within the next two weeks (once I review the check disk and demystify Paypal buttons).