Jones’ Icones

Date of creation:


William Jones of Chelsea (1745-1818)
c. 1783-1789
gouache and ink on parchment. Six bound volumes
280mm x 230mm x 45mm


Oxford University Museum of Natural History, UK
EMu user since 2012

Created by William Jones in the late 18th CenturyJones’ Icones, this unpublished manuscript comprises approximately 765 colour plates in six volumes. Each plate features a short taxonomic and geographic description of a species of butterfly or moth and a very detailed and accurate painting of the species. The work is exceedingly beautiful in its own right, with considerable artistic skill used to execute each illustration, but the Jones’ Icones also has significant merit as a founding text in the development of the taxonomy of Lepidoptera species described at that time.

In 1787, Johann Christian Fabricius (1745-1808), a Danish student of Linnaeus and the man credited with establishing the modern basis for insect classification, studied the Jones’ Icones while in England and subsequently named over 200 species of butterflies and moths based on viewing the paintings found in this work. Many of these names were published in Entomologia Systematica (1793) and the Icones remains the only known visual representJones’ Iconesation of many of the specimens described.

This important and beautiful text was made available online for the first time in 2014 as part of an exciting digitisation and cataloguing initiative at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Acknowledgements: © Oxford University Museum of Natural History, UK