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In 1987 Hill House Publishers were granted a Licence for the commencement of a series of Authentic Facsimiles of rare works from the libraries of London's Natural History Museum. 20 magnificent volumes in the John Gould Facsimile Series have been published. Hill House is run by Bernard and Lucilla D'Abrera, already well known to lepidopterists from the monumental Butterflies of the World series. The Gould facsimiles are a remarkable triumph – and amazing value for money, when the extraordinary quality of the colour reproductions and bindings are taken into account.
The original works of John Gould remain perennially popular but are becoming increasingly rare. Further, the few volumes not in institutional care are being broken up by dealers to be sold for the print trade. Others are in poor condition due to foxing (paper rust) or simply out of reach for most collectors. The 20 volumes so far published by Hill House Publishers have been printed on acid-free paper and will probably outlast the originals. As such they represent a kind of restoration project where the immortal works of John Gould will be given a second life for the generations to come. The Hill House volumes are authentic facsimiles in that no camera was used in transferring the images from the British Museum of Natural History (BMNH) originals. The facsimiles are practically indistinguishable from the originals if viewed from behind glass.
As facsimiles, the books carry faithfully every spot, mark or stain of the originals. They also carry the original Museum Department of Zoology stamps, and librarian’s annotations, and what are thought to be pencilled plate numbers in John Gould’s own hand.
Each Hill House volume is:
- The same size as the original (Imperial Folio: 15" × 22" / 38.1 × 55.9 cm, W × H)
- Hand sewn, cased-in and bound between 4 mm boards which are covered in special Japanese Saifu cloth
- Gold stamped on the spine and front cover with 24 carat foil emboss of the Crown Cipher of the British Museum (Natural History).
- Blind embossed on the inner margin of the front boards while the end-papers are of a special wood-free heavy grade papers, overprinted with a generated repetitive pattern of the Museum’s library stamp.
- John Gould’s birds and mammals brought to life on 136 gsm mat art paper.
- The plates and text are all printed in 4, 5 and 6 colours offset as required. In the case of the Hummingbirds, the throats of the birds are varnished as a 6th colour to simulate the Gum Arabic of the originals.
Each copy is hand inspected by the printer’s quality control officer, individually numbered on the inside front board, hand wrapped in protective brown paper, and placed in its own crush-proof outer carton. The carton is then sealed, numbered and signed on the outside by the printer’s quality control officer. Thus, no two copies are exactly the same.