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Source: C++ Programming for the Absolute Beginner, 2nd Edition by Mark Lee

The amount of time and effort involved in the process of publishing a book is considerable, and this book is no exception. As only one cog in the vast machine of effort involved, it is difficult for me to fully appreciate all of the hands that have touched this edition. However, without the ambition and drive of my original co-author, Dirk Henkemans, this book would have remained an unrequited dream. His drive and perseverance taught me that seemingly impossible things, like writing a book, were not only possible, but readily attainable.

I have a real hard time following what he's trying to say there. What he's saying sounds like this to me: since there's only one cog that's involved in the vast machine of effort, it is difficult to blah blah. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why is there only one cog involved in the vast machine of effort when people are publishing books?

Edit: This is what I understand now:
as only one cog in the vast machine of effort involved - there are many (cogs) people that are involved in the process of writing and publishing a book and he is just one of those cogs involved in this process. All this process is a huge effort made possible by work of a great many number of people. And then he says that it is difficult for him to appreciate the contributions other people involved in the project have made. What I still don't understand is how the two clauses are connected semantically. Why, while you're being one of the huge number of people involved in doing something, is it difficult to recognize other people's equal importance in doing it?

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He is a small cog in a big machine. There are many other cogs, but the machine is very big and he doesn't see or know all the other cogs. So because he is only a little cog he doesn't know exactly how many people had input into the process or who they are. So it is difficult for him to truly appreciate all of their individual inputs. (He is an author, but there are also designers, illustrators, printers, proofreaders, and marketing people - whom he doesn't necessarily know).

The sentence has a very specific purpose:

  • As only one cog in the vast machine of effort involved, it is difficult for me to fully appreciate all of the hands that have touched this edition.

The writer is saying that there are many people he does not know who were probably very important in terms of their input into the book. Here he is using a concession, before making his main point:

  • However, without the ambition and drive of my original co-author, Dirk Henkemans, this book would have remained an unrequited dream.

So, what is happening here is that the writer wants to give special thanks and appreciation to his original co-author - but before he does this he recognises that there were also many other important people too.

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The allusion is to a machine with many cogs. He is just one of them, and the other cogs represent his colleagues.

Let's look at the paragraph sentence by sentence.

The amount of time ... is considerable, and this book is no exception. This speaks of the magnitude of the exercise - there's a lot of work involved.

As only one cog ..., it is difficult for me to fully appreciate all of the hands .... He is recognising the many roles involved in the process. We can imagine this to include the people who helped with the ideas, funding, typesetting, proof-reading, etc, but regardless of who they are and what they did, they were all part of the process with him.

However, without the ambition and drive of my original co-author .... He is recognising one of the most important people who helped make the book a reality.

His drive and perseverance taught me .... This is further recognition of Dirk Henkemans' contribution to the process.

In summary, he is using the figure of speech to downplay his own role and to recognise the efforts of all the people involved in the process of publishing the book (especially the named person).

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  • That doesn't exactly sound like what he says in the original sentence though. – Michael Rybkin Mar 23 '16 at 9:16
  • I've gone through the whole paragraph sentence by sentence. Although he highlights a specific individual at the end, the part you have placed in bold is downplaying his role and recognising the efforts of the others. However, I may have missed something. How does what he says in the original sentence sound to you? – Lawrence Mar 23 '16 at 9:30

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