Joseph Moxon, he of Mechanick Exercises: The Doctrine Of Handy-Works fame, was not what the woodworking community thinks he was: a Joyner Of Note. Far from it. Moxon was a polymath, aka; Noun, A person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. He was a map maker, globe maker, scientific instrument maker, printer, publisher, author, eventually hydrographer to the King and most of all, a tradesman who wanted to be accepted by the intelligentsia of his day as a Fellow Of The Royal Society. Problem was, the Royal Society did not and had never accepted a tradesman into the ranks.
At one point Moxon endeavored to be appointed the official Printer to the Society. Luckily for Moxon, he lost out on that bid. If he had been appointed, he would not have been eligible for membership in that august body because the Printer to The Society was a tradesman and, well, you get it.
Let's step back a bit in time. The Moxon family had a problem with the prevailing religion of Great Britain at that time. (Wiki Joseph Moxon) Thus, the Moxon family left for Holland, where young Joseph, along with his father and brother, set about printing Bibles of the sort not allowed at home. The Moxon family were anarchistic, subversive, radical, underground printers who used the printed word to fight the good fight. Joseph Moxon was raised a hippie.
Flash forward to the return of the Moxon family to Great Britain and we find the Brother's Moxon pursuing their entrepreneurial bent as independent printers. Still tradesmen. Joseph wanted to nothing more than to be accepted to Court, to be recognized for the genius that he was by the creame of the crope, the Royal Society. But in their eyes he was a tradesman because he made things with his hands. Go figure.
A prevailing theme of the day was The Renaissance Man. Cue The Marlboro Man jingle. That was the notion that the Learned Man must be capable of understanding and debating every aspect of life, including how a house was built. This was a direct outgrowth of The Encyclopedists. High brow, wealthy man of independent means should Know Things. Cataloging and describing the world was Knowing Things. Therefore, Joseph wrote of what he knew and did his best to sell his books to the Society membership. Books in those eldritch days were often printed and shelved at the local Stationers shop as unbound signatures, leaving it up to the purchaser to decide on what binding he could afford, errr, show off on his shelves.
Joseph did something entrepreneurial to the extreme. He offered Mechanick Exercises as a serial, i.e.; chapter by chapter. In doing so he hoped to raise funds for the next chapter before sinking his funds into what was an early British foray into what had been the property of the Roubo's and Diderot's of the world. It was a common practice for an author or publisher to solicit subscribers to a forthcoming book. Pre-orders. Here is where The Doctrine Of Handy-Works diverged from the norm.
The Guild system controlled the trades. To work outside of the Guilds was to invite censure, to be a pariah. The Guilds were for tradesmen. The Royal Society didn't give a hoot.
"Printer Joseph Moxon’s legacy to print culture has suffered from myriad, often conflicting interpretations by book historians from the late nineteenth century to present day. Who really was Joseph Moxon (1627–1691), born in Wakefield, England the son of Puritan English printer James Moxon? Through a historical appraisal of Moxon’s professional interests and associations with the Stationer’s Company and the Royal Society of London, and a brief analysis of specific editorial aspects of Mechanick Exercises or, The Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the Art of Printing, this paper will first provide a clearer picture of Joseph Moxon as self-fashioning pragmatist and then redefine his place within print culture—that is, as a pivotal contributor not only to the mechanical art of printing but also to the standardization of editorial practice." Jocelyn Hargrave.
There has been a greater depth of studies into Moxon The Printer than into Moxon the hands on tradesman. Derek Long introduced us to the Moxon family via At The Sign Of The Atlas: The Life Work Of Joseph Moxon, A Restoration Polymath ISBN: 9781907730306. Yet, from the perspective of the woodworking hand tool community, Moxon is The Joyner.
Somewhere around 2006, I imaged my copy of Doctrine and published it as a digital file on CD which turns up every now and then on Ebay. I had wanted to do it as a book, but at that time Print On Demand was yet in it's infancy and a costly enterprise.
In 2008, Christopher Schwarz published the single chapter on Joinery from the house building oriented volume Mechanick Exercises: Or The Doctrine Of Handy-Works Applied To The Arts Of Smithing, Joinery, (House) Carpentry, Turning, Bricklayery. From this book came the modern focus on Moxon as Joiner. Yet, the original volume published first as a serial and later as a distinct volume after Moxon's death, was written to serve multiple purposes. It was a guide to the building of a dwelling, a house of the sort the well-to-do resided in. Joinery was one part of that construct. In truth, House Carpentry, being the third chapter, is more central to the purpose of the book.
Jump to 2010 and I published Doctrine as a single volume through Lightning Source, the POD arm of Ingram Group, later to become IngramSpark. This was the first reprint under the Toolemera Press imprint.
The Renaissance Man of the day was expected to be knowledgeable in all sorts of specialities, both mundane, of the trades and of a scientific bent. Moxon's book on House Carpentry was to be proof that he was of this community. At one point he had not sold sufficient subscriptions to the serialized chapters and threatened to trash the entire book unless more Elites signed on. Luckily for Moxon, the likes of Samuel Pepys was a confidant and championed his cause.
The first English language book to be serialized, yes. Because Moxon could not drum up enough subscribers to fund the entire book as a single volume. My take is that the Society men did not consider House Carpentry as a whole to be of sufficient importance to warrant the opening of their purses. Printing, while a Trade, was an honorable subject of Import for those who collected books the way people collected beanie babies. The more leather bound books on your shelves, the greater the intellect you were. Ipso Facto.
Now you can read Jocelyn Hargrave's article: Joseph Moxon: A Re-Fashioned Appraisal