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Jevons Family Papers

Date range: 1799-1959.

Papers of the Jevons family, especially William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), Professor of Logic, Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Political Economy at Owens College, Manchester, 1866-1876, and Professor of Political Economy at University College, London, 1876-1880.

William Stanley Jevons was a true polymath, whose research spanned many disciplines. His outstanding contributions were in the fields of economics and logic (he has been described as the founder of mathematical economics), but his published writings also encompassed chemistry, meteorology, geology, astronomy, geometry, physiology, sociology and the philosophy of science.

W.S. Jevons's papers comprise over 600 letters from family, relations, colleagues and academic associates, including:

  • Charles Babbage, mathematician and inventor of the Difference Engine calculating machine
  • Walter Bagehot, economist, political analyst and journalist
  • George Bentham, botanist; George Boole, mathematician and logician
  • John Bright, reforming orator and statesman
  • William Ewart Gladstone
  • Robert Harley, mathematician
  • Sir John Herschel, astronomer and chemist
  • Alfred Marshall, economist
  • James Martineau, the Unitarian divine
  • the philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill
  • Henry Enfield Roscoe, Professor of Chemistry at Owens College, 1857-1886
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson

There are also diaries, notebooks and photograph albums recording Jevons’s activities and career in Australia, when he was employed as assayer at the Sydney mint and also carried out detailed social surveys of the city’s slums, 1854-1859; research notes; and manuscript drafts and copies of his many printed works.

There are papers relating to about 40 other members of the Jevons family, including material relating to William Stanley Jevons's father, Thomas Jevons (1791-1855), a businessman and inventor; the latter's eldest daughter Lucy Ann (1830-1910); Harriet Ann (1838-1910), wife of William Stanley Jevons; and their son Herbert Stanley Jevons (1875-1955); and to another twenty members of the related Roscoe, Taylor, Boyce and Scott families.

In 2003 the Library purchased a small collection of letters from W.S. Jevons to his cousin Henry Enfield Roscoe; four of the letters were written while Jevons was working at the Sydney Mint in the 1850s.

They are an important source for his interests in meteorology, photography and gold extraction, as well as containing details of life in New South Wales.

There are a further eight autograph letters from Jevons to George Howard Darwin, the Cambridge mathematician and astronomer. The majority of these letters are not recorded in the published editions of Jevons’s correspondence by Professor R.D.C. Black (1922–2008), whose working papers the JRUL also acquired in 2002.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online online via ELGAR.
  • Published handlist, P. McNiven, 'Handlist of the Jevons Archives in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 66 (1983-4), pp. 213-55.


Published microfilm: The Papers of William Stanley Jevons, 1835-1882, from the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Marlborough: Adam Matthew Publications, 1991).


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

Image collections

View on-line high-resolution images of the Jevons photograph albums, via Luna Insight, the Library's image management system.

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