Treasures from the Museum Library and Archive

William Jones’ Icones

Icones is the work of 18th-century wealthy wine merchant and entomologist William Jones (1745–1818). It is one of the most scientifically important and stunning works on butterflies and moths ever produced.  In it, Jones carefully painted over 760 species, describing many for the first time.  What makes this book even more special is that it was never published and the copy held in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History archive is the original and only copy.   

Two of the hundreds of butterfly and moth species carefully recorded in Icones.

Volume I, William Jones’ Icones

Completed between the 1780 and 1810, Icones is now bound in six leather volumes. Using his own Lepidoptera collection and the collections of other naturalists, Jones create the book at a time when collecting natural history specimens from newly discovered parts of the world was a fashionable pastime among the wealthy.  Many of the species are described for the first time in this work and are classed as Iconotypes.  This means that the illustrations act as type specimens against which all other specimens of that species are compared for the purposes of identification.

Click to find out more about this unique work and to see more of William Jones’ incredible illustrations.

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