I don't usually take the words of the vain Arthur Collins, but this little snippet(it's undated, but I think that this is certainly from around 1905 or 1906) is a perfect quote for how to describe the early recording process. Collins wouldn't be considered one of the earliest recording artists(i.e. Len Spencer, George Gaskin, etc), but he started rather early, in c.1897. The exact year of his beginning in recording is a little questionable as it had been said that he was an assistant of Edison's manager Walter Miller starting in supposedly 1896(this year is less likely) or 1897. This is why he did quite a good amount of announcing on Edison brown wax cylinders in the late 1890's to the end of brown wax cylinders in 1902.
However! What Mr.Collins says in the second paragraph was only true of the records made after 1901. As brown wax cylinders could not be mass produced, they let as many takes as they could pass, even if a few of them were a FUBAR if you know what I mean. This is why brown wax cylinders are fascinating to listen to, especially Columbia's and the obscure labels other than Edison. Collins came in when records were still made the old way, so he had to deal with the messy takes being accepted, but he wouldn't go there when he spoke, as he was somewhat modest in the Victorian way(it would be too negative of a subject to discuss publicly).
Also notice! Mr. Collins does not know how long Harlan had been recording for! And for Harlan it's pretty obviously documented that 1899 was his beginning year at Edison. Every take counted in the 1890's. And Collins came along too late to truly know this, as I'm sure that in his sly relations with Len Spencer in performing(i.e. they were both Masons! how bout that for kinky!) Spencer probably shared his many experiences with the older Collins about the earliest years of recording, and how tiresome it could become. Collins never became as wise as his Rag-Time predecessor Leonard. Unfortunately, Len's long-standing popularity in Ragtime was up for competition when Collins came on the recording scene. Spencer's ideas and genius lived on when he decided to take Collins in for his third installment of the "Columbia minstrels" in c.1902. Therefore, Len still had the control of the Columbia staff and what minstrel and Ragtime material everyone was recording. Collins probably was completely "weirded out" by Spencer's heaving ambitions and lifestyle. But all the same must have been accepting of it.
Leonard was a veteran recording artist, so Collins had to give him some respect, even if Collins himself was three years his senior.
I hope you all enjoyed this! :-)