Enfilade

New Book | Iconotypes: A Compendium of Butterflies and Moths

Posted in books by Editor on October 15, 2021

From the University of California Press:

William Jones, with an introduction by Richard Vane-Wright, Iconotypes: A Compendium of Butterflies & Moths, Jones’ Icones Complete (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021), 688 pages, ISBN: 978-0520386501, $85.

William Jones’s Icones is one of the most scientifically important and visually stunning works on butterflies and moths ever created. 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. Yet until now, it has never been published—the only existing manuscript copy is housed in the archives of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. With Iconotypes, Jones’s work is published for the first time, accompanied by expert commentary and contextual essays, and featuring annotated maps showing where each specimen was discovered.

Between the early 1780s and 1810, Jones, a wine merchant, painted in painstaking detail hundreds of species of Lepidoptera, drawing from his own collection and the collections of prominent amateur naturalists. For every specimen, Jones included the known species name, the collection, and the geographical location in which it was found. In this enhanced facsimile, Jones’s historical references are clarified and modern taxonomic names are provided together with notes on which paintings serve as iconotypes. Contextual commentary by specialist entomologist Richard Vane-Wright gives an account of Jones’s life, his motivation for collecting butterflies and creating the Icones, and evaluates the significance of Jones’s work. This lavish volume intersperses contemporary maps showing the locations of each specimen, expert essays on the study of lepidoptery since ancient Egyptian times, the development of taxonomy after Linnaeus, the roles of collectors and natural history artists during the late 1700s to mid-1800s, and the steep decline of butterflies and moths over the last fifty years. Iconotypes is a beautiful collector’s object for fans of natural history and illustrations of butterflies and moths, as well as artists, designers, and bibliophiles.

Richard I. Vane-Wright is an entomologist and taxonomist who has been associated with London’s Natural History Museum for nearly sixty years. A specialist on butterflies, he retired from the museum in 2004 as Keeper of the Department of Entomology. He is the author of three books, most recently Butterflies: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior. He is also involved with biodiversity conservation and local entomological projects.

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