Flying Icons

Jones' Icones

We are thrilled in the Museum’s Library and Archive to have just been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It’s for Flying Icons, our project to digitise and make freely available online the beautiful and important 18th-century Jones’ Icones manuscript.

This is the second project to receive financial support in the past year and it’s all part of an exciting initiative to make the library and archive collections more accessible and more useful to wider audiences.

The Flying Icons project was inspired by our collection of archives and specimens belonging to William Jones of Chelsea (1745-1818), a highly regarded, but relatively unknown amateur British naturalist in the late 18th century. A London wine merchant by trade, he became more well-known for his work on butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera).

IconesHis most famous work is his six-volume manuscript, popularly known as the Jones’ Icones. It contains very beautiful and remarkably accurate paintings of over 1,500 butterflies and moths, as well as taxonomic and geographical information of the species depicted. Created from some of the earliest known butterfly collections in Britain, the manuscript is critically important to understanding the history of taxonomy of Lepidoptera, but has never yet been fully published..

As well as digitising the Jones’ archive and specimen collections at the Museum, we will also be using the funding to create a range of workshops for amateur natural history researchers and students. These will launch late this year, allowing individuals and groups who are not associated with universities or research facilities to gain some instruction in how to use and access digital resources for their research.

The online copy of the Jones’ Icones itself is planned for summer 2014 and will include resources on butterfly studies and identification. The launch will be accompanied by an exhibit and lecture given by the foremost William Jones expert, Professor Dick Vane-Wright, Honorary Professor of Taxonomy at the University of Kent.

In the meantime you can see the actual manuscript for yourself in our Natural Histories exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.

Kate Santry, Head of Archival Collections

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