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A compendium of butterflies and moths. Jones’s Icones Complete

Richard I. Vane-Wright


An enhanced facsimile of Jones's Icones, one of the most scientifically important and visually stunning works on butterflies and moths ever created

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Jones’s Icones contains finely delineated paintings of more than 760 species of Lepidoptera, many of which it described for the first time, marking a critical moment in the study of natural history. With Iconotypes Jones’s seminal work is published for the first time, accompanied by expert commentary and contextual essays, and featuring annotated maps showing the location of each species.

Jones painted the species between the early 1780s and 1800, drawing from his own collection and the collections of Joseph Banks, Dru Drury, Sir James Edward Smith, John Francillon, the British Museum and the Linnean Society. For every specimen painting he provided a species name, the collection from which it was taken and the geographical location in which it was found. In 1787, during a visit to London, the Danish scientist Johann Christian Fabricius studied Jones’s paintings and based 231 species of butterfly and moths on them. In this enhanced facsimile, Jones’s references to historic references are clarified and modern taxonomic names are provided, together with notes on which paintings serve as iconotypes. Contextual commentary by specialist entomologist Richard I. Vane-Wright gives an account of Jones’s life and his motivation for collecting butterflies and creating the Icones, and evaluates the significance of his work. Interspersed at intervals between the pages of Jones’s paintings are modern maps showing the location of each species painted, and expert essays on the development of lepidoptery and taxonomy after Linneaus, and the roles of collectors and natural history artists from the late 1700s to mid-1800s.

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'Science and art combine in an exquisite history as relevant today as it was more than two centuries ago. A book of considerable scientific value and artistic beauty. As a modern research source – at a time when habitat destruction and a changing climate are a reality and decline of butterflies globally is alarming – it is invaluable'
John Tennent, The Art Newspaper

'The sheer intellectual as well as physical effort of gathering together a body of knowledge such as Icones cannot be underestimated, and nor can its collaborative nature'
The Herald

'The Icones are not only extraordinarily beautiful paintings, but they present an important record of a pre-industrial butterfly world. Several of the illustrated species are extinct or locally extinct. It is wonderful that they have finally been published. Combined with the notes from experts, this book forms, in the words of the publishers, 'an exquisite work of natural history from the Age of Enlightenment'. I couldn’t agree more'

'Any enthusiast that is interested in world Lepidoptera (butterflies in particular) and its historical backdrop will absolutely love Iconotypes and, as such, this new work is highly recommended'
Peter Eeles, Dispar

'Beautifully produced'
Country Life

'This wonderful book is a veritable tour-de-force (as well as being a labour of love). It is a marvellous blend of Aurelian history, taxonomy, art, biogeography, and thoughtful articles and anecdotes about the eccentric characters who have contributed to lepidopterology over the last three centuries. It is packed with stories and illustrations which will excite all lovers of Lepidoptera'

'An exquisite specimen … a brilliant specimen of collaborative publishing'
The Tablet, Books of the Year

'WOW! The scholarship and totality of this new book are as complete as I can want and could easily be a template for anyone writing a schol¬arly as well as beautiful book. This is the best book I ever reviewed'
Eric H. Metzler, National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian)

'Now all can appreciate the paintings in this beautifully illustrated work. With historical butterfly facts and supporting interpretation it is more than just an enhanced facsimile as the title-page too modestly asserts'
Archives of Natural History

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Quarterbound (no jacket)

Size: 25.2 x 18.8 cm

Extent: 688 pp

Illustrations: 1600

Publication date: 9 November 2021

ISBN: 9780500024324

Contents List

Foreword by Professor Paul Smith, Director of Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Introduction: William Jones & the Birth of the Icones by Richard I .Vane-Wright

Icones Volume I: Papiliones Equites: Troes & Achivi
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in Europe
Article—The early study of Lepidoptera by Alberto Zilli
Icones Volume II: Papiliones Heliconii
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in North & Central America
Icones Volume III: Papiliones Danai: Candidi & Festivi
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in South America
Article—A flourishing of lepidopterological activity by Alberto Zilli
Icones Volume IV: Papiliones Nymphales: Gemmati & Phalerati
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in Asia
Article—Collecting Lepidoptera in the 18th & 19th centuries by Arlene Leis
Icones Volume V: Papiliones Nymphales
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in Africa
Article—The art of painting butterflies by Stefanie Jovanovic-Kruspel
Icones Volume VI: Papiliones Plebeji
Map—Distribution of iconotype species in Australasia
Article—The decline of Lepidoptera around the globe by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo
Icones Volume VII: Papiliones

Conclusion: The Legacy of William Jones by Richard I. Vane-Wright
Full listing of Jones’s iconotypes
Sources of illustrations
Index to the butterflies
Index to the articles

About the Author

Oxford University Museum of Natural History conserves in its archives the only manuscript copy of Jones’s Icones in existence in the world, together with Jones’s surviving papers, correspondence, field notebooks and butterfly and moth collection.
Richard I. Vane-Wright is an entomologist and taxonomist who has been associated with the Natural History Museum for nearly sixty years. A specialist on butterflies, he retired from the museum in 2004 as Head Keeper of the Department of Entomology. He has 250 journal publications to his name, and books including Milkweed Butterflies and The Seymer Legacy. He is also involved with biodiversity conservation and local entomological projects.