James John Joicey
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James John Joicey
James John Joicey

Sepia portrait photograph of middle-aged gentleman in suit and hat in 1920
Born28 December 1870
Died10 March 1932
The Hill, Witley, Surrey
Burial placeHoly Trinity Church, Sunningdale
OccupationAmateur entomologist
Known forAssembling a collection of over 1.5 million Lepidoptera specimens, his Hill Museum research output, and his presentations from his collection to the Natural History Museum
Notable work
The Bulletin of the Hill Museum 1921-1932[1][2][3][4]
Maud Muriel Fisher (m. 1896-1932, afterwards Baroness de Satgé)
Relatives1st Baron Joicey (father's cousin)[5]

James John Joicey (28 December 1870 - 10 March 1932) was an English amateur entomologist, who assembled an enormous collection of Lepidoptera in his private research museum, called the Hill Museum, in Witley, Surrey. His collection, 40 years in the making, was considered to have been the second largest in the world held in private hands and to have numbered over 1.5 million specimens. Joicey was a fellow of the following learned societies: Zoological Society of London, Royal Geographical Society, Royal Entomological Society, Royal Horticultural Society, and Linnean Society of London.

Joicey employed specialist entomologists including George Talbot to curate his collection and financed numerous expeditions throughout the world to obtain previously unknown varieties. Over 190 scientific articles were produced during the active period of the Hill Museum. This body of research was described as "a contribution to the study of the exotic Lepidoptera of very great scientific value."[6]:144

Joicey's donations from his collection, made both during his life and following his death, contributed significantly to the quality and numerical predominance of the Lepidoptera collection held by the Natural History Museum, London. Joicey was said to have been:

undoubtedly the most lavish patron of Entomology, in so far as butterflies and moths are concerned, that this country has ever boasted.[6]:142



James John Joicey was born on 28 December 1870 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the only child of Major William James Joicey, a wealthy coal owner, and Mary Anne Joicey née Clark.[7][8][5] He was educated at Aysgarth School, Yorkshire, and Hertford College, Oxford,[9] and was an Associate Member of the Institute of Mining Engineers from 1891.[10] He was also a member of the Junior Carlton Club.[11]

Joicey married Maud Muriel Fisher in London in 1896.[12] He lived at The Hill in Witley, Surrey, from about 1912.[a]


Joicey's boyhood interest in insects was encouraged by his parents and at age sixteen he put together a small collection of British and foreign butterflies.[6][13] As an adult, he happened upon the forgotten cabinets of his boyhood collection and was inspired to start collecting in earnest,[13] his active interest dating from 1906.[1] He used his resources to "indulge a taste for collecting butterflies and moths which remained with him throughout his life." He travelled "in the East"[14] as a young man and, although he employed experts to collect most of his specimens, also collected "on his own account both here and abroad"[13] and "travelled widely in Europe, India, China, Japan, Burma and America".[15][16] In 1913, he built and financed a private research museum, the Hill Museum, at his home in Witley, employing a curator and seven assistants.[14] In one twelve-month period he collected some 17,000 specimens from across the world and was spending up to £10,000 a year on the collection.[13] Joicey said:

How did I manage to spend £10,000 a year on this collection? Well, these did not come from my back garden. I have had to send collectors to the far ends of the earth. ... When my work is done - that is, when I die - I will present the collection to the nation.[17]

The work has been the ruling passion of my life, ... I don't think I am extravagant, as my researches and investigations will be of great value to the nation.[15]

Joicey became a fellow of the Zoological Society of London in 1890,[18] a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1903,[19] a fellow of the Entomological Society in 1908 (council member 1920--1923),[20][16] a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1912,[21] a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1913,[22] a life member of the Société entomologique de France in 1921,[23] and a member of the London Natural History Society in 1928.[24]

As well as amateur entomologist, Joicey was a well-known amateur orchidist and exhibited at meetings of the Royal Horticultural Society.[25]


Joicey could afford to be a man of leisure through his family connection with the firm of "Messrs. James Joicey & Co., Ltd, coalowners, Newcastle", founded by his grandfather.[5] Although described as having been "nominally on the Stock Exchange from 1896 to 1899",[26] then, in 1901, as a "coal owner & ship owner",[27] and, in 1913, as a director of the family coal mining firm,[28] Joicey effectively had no occupation and throughout his life subsisted on substantial allowances from his parents. However, his income proved insufficient for his "extravagance in living" and the exorbitant interest rates charged by money-lenders. Joicey became bankrupt in 1909 with a deficiency of over £185,000, and again in 1922 with a deficiency of over £430,000 despite his mother having given him £300,000 in the interim.[29][30][31] The latter bankruptcy was discharged in October 1931.[32][33]

The son of a millionaire, for him money meant only one thing - more butterflies, still rarer specimens than he had already.

George Talbot, Joicey's head keeper, 1932[34]

Joicey's father, at one time a millionaire, had left over £700,000 in his estate in 1912, but his will ensured that no money went directly to his son.[35][36] The Witley house and estate were bought for Joicey after his first bankruptcy.[37] By 1919, Joicey was spending nearly £10,000 a year on the collection. When sued by creditors, the judge said, "He seems hardly to have grown up. He seems to have infantile tastes which his mother helps him gratify." When counsel stated that Joicey was "susceptible to the wiles of the money-lenders", the judge responded, "And to the wiles of the butterflies."[38] During the 1922 bankruptcy hearing, Joicey said, "I think the money seems to have gone like snow in an oven."[39]

Mr. Joicey was also generous to the point of recklessness to his friends and acquaintances, with the result that in spite of his large income his affairs became more than once seriously involved. He entertained lavishly and maintained a splendid garden at The Hill with a particularly fine collection of orchids. He was a keen shot and an experienced angler ...[14]


Joicey's mother died in 1930, leaving an estate valued at over £300,000.[40] Towards the end of his life, Joicey became an "invalid".[34] He died of heart failure on 10 March 1932 at his home, The Hill, in Witley, Surrey, aged 61, and was survived by his wife.[41][42][14] He was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Sunningdale.[43] Joicey's estate was valued at £1151,[44] his collection and museum having been principally paid for and owned by his mother.[33][45]


The primary object of Mr. Joicey in making this collection of Lepidoptera is to advance in some way our scientific knowledge. ... The formation of a large collection has its value, because without access to plenty of material studies can only be incomplete and results are often erroneous. ...
No apology should be needed for amassing large collections ...[1]:5

As an adult, Joicey began collecting Lepidoptera in 1906[b] and by 1908 was advertising as far away as Australia for:

Fresh-caught Specimens of Butterflies and Large Moths, in papers. Send Samples and state price per hundred.[47]

He acquired the Henley Grose-Smith collection in 1910. Two years later he purchased the Herbert Druce collection. To house his growing collection, he founded the Hill Museum at his Witley home in 1913.[1]:3[14] Joicey employed curators, including Alfred Noakes (from 1906)[48][49] and George Talbot (from 1915),[50] with a staff of assistants.[51][6]

Book page showing watercolour plate of butterfly specimens
New butterflies from Buru and New Guinea[1]:592 (Joicey Collection). Top left: Troides prattorum. Top right: Charaxes madensis. Both were described by Talbot at The Hill to a reporter in 1932 shortly after Joicey's death.[34]

Between 1913 and 1921 Joicey bought further collections: those of Ernst Suffert, c.1913, Fritz Ludwig Otto Wichgraf, 1913, Col. Charles Swinhoe, 1916, Roland Trimen, 1917, Lt.-Col. C. G. Nurse, 1919, Hamilton Druce, 1919, Heinrich Riffarth, 1919, Henry John Elwes, 1920, and Paul Dognin, 1921. He added to these by sending special collectors to explore various regions on his behalf; for example, the Pratt family to South America and New Guinea, and T. A. Barns to Central Africa (Barns dedicated his 1922 book on the Eastern Congo to Joicey, his "friend and patron"). Mr. W. J. C. Frost, who visited the Islands of Tenimber, Am, Key, Misol, Obi and Sula during 1915--1918, donated his collection. Another collector, Mr. C. Talbot Bowring,[52] sent many thousands of specimens from Hainan Island (1918--1920).[1]:3-4

In 1916, when granting Joicey's curator conditional exemption from military service, General Sir J. Wodehouse described the collection as "probably the finest of its kind in England", and Oxford professor E. B. Poulton wrote that "to leave the collection without a competent head would be a national disaster."[53] In 1919, the collection was valued at £50,000. It consisted of 1.5 million specimens held in a room containing chests of drawers with "5000 compartments neatly arranged round the room, and in addition 4000 cases, all carefully labelled."[17]

Here were butterflies of all sizes, of all colours - all arranged in an effective colour grouping. In one compartment were ... great winged beauties half a foot from wing tip to wing tip. In another were creatures so small that it needed a microscope to discern their beauty.[17]

An annexe to the museum "over eighty feet long by twenty feet wide" was built in 1920.[1]:4 In 1927 it was reported that the main building of the Museum was "as large as a dance hall. The specimens are kept in special cabinets stacked almost to the roof. Here, all day long, Mr. Joicey and his assistants ... work at arranging and naming the fresh arrivals." Some specimens dated from the 1830s, others were obtained on the Stanley expedition of 1871. Some were caught over 1,000 miles from land, others had perished on the Alpine snowfields. They ranged in size from 1/2 inch to 10 inches wing spread.[13] By 1930 the Hill Museum contained upwards of 380,000 specimens.[6]

Photograph of multi-drawer butterfly display cabinet with some drawers open
Butterflies from the Joicey collection in a contemporary cabinet at the Haslemere Educational Museum.

Joicey and his Hill Museum colleagues published over 190 scientific articles on world Lepidoptera (see Works below) and "produced some excellent work, especially on the Lepidoptera of New Guinea, Hainan Island, and Central and Eastern Africa."[46]:4 Joicey and Talbot co-edited four volumes of The Bulletin of the Hill Museum, 1921-1932[1][2][3][4] and Alfred George Gabriel[54] published A Catalogue of the Type Specimens of Lepidoptera Rhopalocera in the Hill Museum in 1932.[55]

During his lifetime, Joicey "presented to the Nation" between 200,000 and 300,000 Lepidoptera specimens including about 75,000 to the Natural History Museum. The latter figure included 15,500 moths and a number butterflies (1923), his whole collection of over 30,000 Hesperiidae butterflies (1926), 6,000 Lymantriidae moths (1928), and, in 1931, a series of 800 type butterflies being "the most valuable, both scientifically and intrinsically ... received for the past two decades", some thousands of moths including over 600 type and paratype moths, and 1,500 butterflies including 750 type specimens. In 1932, the collection numbered over 500,000 specimens.[14][56][55]

However, shortly after Joicey's death in 1932 the Hill Museum was closed and the property sold by his mother's executors.[45]

The closing of the Hill Museum and the disbanding of its staff are events which will have serious repercussions throughout the ranks of lepidopterists in all parts of the world, and will definitely retard the advance of this science. In a comparatively short space of time Mr Joicey accomplished much for his favourite study.[6]:144


Joicey's Hill Museum produced over 190 research articles which were published in a range of scientific journals.[6] In 1934, the Natural History Museum received more than 300,000 specimens as part of the Joicey Bequest.[57] Together with the Oberthür and Rothschild collections, the Joicey collection contributed to the quality and numerical predominance of the Lepidoptera collection held by the Natural History Museum, London.[14][58][46][59]

A report in Nature stated that:

During his life-time, the late J. J. Joicey probably did more to stimulate the study of butterflies and moths, especially those of Africa, than any other private individual in Great Britain.[60]


Joicey and Talbot (partial list)

  • New Species of Heterocera from Dutch New Guinea. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Eighth series) 15 (87): 295-301, pl. XII (1915)
  • New Lepidoptera from the Dutch New Guinea (with A. Noakes). Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 63 (3,4): 361-386, pls LV-LXII (1916)
  • New Lepidoptera from the Schouten Islands. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 64 (1): 65-83, pls 3-6 (1916)
  • New Heterocera from Dutch New Guinea. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Eighth series) 20 (115): 50-87, pls 1-4 (1917)
  • New Lepidoptera from Waigeu, Dutch New Guinea and Biak. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Eighth series) 20 (117): 216-229 (1917)
  • New South-American Rhopalocera. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1917: 259-264, pl I (1918)
  • New South-American Arctiidae. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1917: 265-270, pl I (1918)
  • New butterflies from Africa and the east. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1917: 271-272 (1918)
  • A Gynandromorph of Papilio lycophron Hbn. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1917: 273, pl II (1918)
  • Three Aberrations of Lepidoptera. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1917: 275-276, pl I (1918)
  • New forms of Indo-Australian butterflies. Bulletin of the Hill Museum 1 (3): 565-569 (1924)
  • New forms of Lepidoptera Rhopalocera. Encyclopedia of Entomology (B III Lepidoptera) 2: 1-14 (1926)
  • New forms of Rhopalocera in the Hill Museum. Bulletin of the Hill Museum 2 (1): 19-27 (1928)
  • Also see the BioNames database linking taxonomic names to their original descriptions
The majority of the papers are of a purely systematic nature, consisting of the description of new species or the revision of various genera; but there are several of principally faunistic interest, as, for example, the Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Hainan. They represent a contribution to the study of the exotic Lepidoptera of very great scientific value.[6]:144

Associated with the Hill Museum

The Bulletin of the Hill Museum (111 articles and 80 plates[6])

Other journals (82 articles[6]) (partial list)


  1. ^ The 1911 Census of England shows another family living at The Hill in April 1911 and Joicey had notified the Institute of Mining Engineers of his address at The Hill by August 1912.[10] He is also listed in London electoral registers from 1920 to 1925 at Marble Arch as Admiral Joicey.
  2. ^ According to Miller,[46] Joicey first competed with Walter Rothschild to build the world's premier orchid collection but when Joicey went bankrupt the judge made him promise to abandon collecting orchids. However, the details of the anecdote do not match Joicey's known bankruptcies and the story is currently uncorroborated.


  • Anon. 1932: [Joicey, J. J.] Entomological News 43: 140
  • Anon. 1932: [Joicey, J. J.] London Naturalist 1931: 38
  • Anon. 1932: [Joicey, J. J.] Nature 129: 535, 896
  • Anon. 1932: [Joicey J. J.] Orchid Review 40: 118
  • Anon. 1932: [Joicey J. J.] The Times (16 March) p. 9
  • Gilbert, P. 2000: Butterfly Collectors and Painters: Four Centuries of Colour Plates from the Library Collections of the Natural History Museum, London. Singapore, Beaumont Publishing Pte Ltd: X+166 S, pp. 31-33
  • Riley, N. D. 1932: [Joicey, J. J.] Entomologist 65: 142-144
  • Turner, H. J. 1932: [Joicey, J. J.] Entomologist's Record & Journal of Variation 44: 68

External links


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Joicey, J. J.; Talbot, G., eds. (1924). The Bulletin of the Hill Museum: A Magazine of Lepidoptera. 1. London: John Bale, Sons and Danielsson Ltd. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ a b Joicey, J. J.; Talbot, G., eds. (1928). The Bulletin of the Hill Museum: A Magazine of Lepidoptera. 2. London: John Bale, Sons and Danielsson Ltd. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ a b Joicey, J. J.; Talbot, G., eds. (1929). The Bulletin of the Hill Museum: A Magazine of Lepidoptera. 3. London: John Bale, Sons and Danielsson Ltd. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b Joicey, J. J.; Talbot, G., eds. (1932). The Bulletin of the Hill Museum: A Magazine of Lepidoptera. 4. London: John Bale, Sons and Danielsson Ltd. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Major Joicey Dead. His Association with Local Coal Industry. Popular Turf Personality". The Newcastle Daily Chronicle. 24 January 1912. p. 7.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Riley, N. D. (1932). "Obituary: James John Joicey". The Entomologist. 65: 142-144.
  7. ^ "Births". The Newcastle Courant. 6 January 1871. p. 8.
  8. ^ "Marriages". The Newcastle Courant. 20 March 1868. p. 8.
  9. ^ "Mr. J. J. Joicey Owner of £50,000 Collection of Butterflies". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 12 March 1932. p. 14.
  10. ^ a b "List of Members, August 3, 1912". Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. LXII: xlvi. 1913. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ Walford's County Families of the United Kingdom. London: Ballantyne & Co. Ltd. 1919. pp. 734. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Marriages". The Standard. 20 October 1896. p. 1.
  13. ^ a b c d e "A £100,000 Hobby. The Rarest Pair of Wings in the World. Facing Death for a Butterfly". The Adelaide Chronicle. 24 September 1927. p. 76. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "Obituary - Mr. J. J. Joicey - Gifts to the Natural History Museum". The Times. 16 March 1932. p. 9.
  15. ^ a b "£50,000 Collection of Butterflies. Death of an Eminent Naturalist". Sheffield Independent. 12 March 1932. p. 5.
  16. ^ a b Who Was Who: 1929-1940. London: Adam & Charles Black. 1960. p. 722.
  17. ^ a b c "A Fortune for Butterflies. A Collector's Mania. Spends £10,000 a Year". The Star. 6 June 1919. p. 4. Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ A List of the Fellows of the Zoological Society of London. London: William Clowes and Sons, Limited. 1924. p. 85.
  19. ^ "Meetings of the Royal Geographical Society, Sessions 1903-1904". The Geographical Journal. XXII: 709. 1903. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 1915. London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1915. pp. xix. Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ "Extracts from the Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society". The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. xxxviii: xxii. 1912. Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ "December 4th, 1913". Proceedings of the Linnean Society. 126: 3. 1914. Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ "Liste des membres de la société entomologique de France arrêtée au 10 janvier 1930". Bulletin de la Société entomologique de France. 36 (1): XXVIII. 1931. Retrieved 2019.
  24. ^ "Obituary". The London Naturalist. 1931: 38. 1932. Retrieved 2019.
  25. ^ "Obituary". The Orchid Review. 40: 118. 1932. Retrieved 2019.
  26. ^ "Unable to Live on £8,000 a Year". Framlingham Weekly News. 9 July 1910. p. 4.
  27. ^ 1901 Census of England and Wales. RG12/814
  28. ^ "James Joicey & Co. Limited". The Times. 1 December 1913. p. 10.
  29. ^ "King's Bench Division. In re Joicey". The Times. 8 July 1910. p. 3.
  30. ^ "Borrowed Half a Million. Young Man's Dealings with Moneylenders". Daily Mail. 8 February 1922. p. 6.
  31. ^ "Millionaire's Son Again Bankrupt". The Times. 10 February 1922. p. 7.
  32. ^ "Mr. J. J. Joicey's Bankruptcy". The Times. 16 October 1926. p. 4.
  33. ^ a b "Museum Bequest of Northern Bankrupt". Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. 7 June 1932. p. 1.
  34. ^ a b c "£10,000 A Year for Butterflies - Insects Men Died to Get - Wonder Collection for Nation". Dundee Evening Telegraph. 15 March 1932. p. 9.
  35. ^ "Man Unable to Live on £20,000 a Year". Western Morning News. 15 October 1926. p. 3.
  36. ^ "Will of the Late Major W. J. Joicey". Newcastle Daily Chronicle. 27 March 1912. p. 2.
  37. ^ "Wild Extravagance. Debts of £400,000 in Second Bankruptcy. Remarkable Figures". Western Times. 15 October 1926. p. 12.
  38. ^ "King's Bench Division. A Butterfly Collector and Moneylenders. Jacobs Brothers v. Joicey". The Times. 31 March 1919. p. 4.
  39. ^ "Money Went Like Snow in Oven". Pall Mall Gazette. 7 March 1922. p. 5.
  40. ^ Joicey, Mary (1930). "Find a will". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2019.
  41. ^ "Milestones". Time Magazine. XIX (12). 21 March 1932.
  42. ^ "Deaths". The Times. 14 March 1932. p. 1.
  43. ^ "Arrangements for Today". The Times. 16 March 1932. p. 17.
  44. ^ Joicey, James John (1932). "Find a will". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2019.
  45. ^ a b "Hambledon and Witley Estates". The Surrey Advertiser and County Times. 28 May 1932. p. 7.
  46. ^ a b c Miller, Lee D. (1986). "Presidential Address, 1984: A Tribute to the Amateur" (PDF). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 40 (1): 1-7. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ "Wanted". The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser. 30 December 1908. p. 1683. Retrieved 2019.
  48. ^ "Lance-Corpl. Noakes Killed". Surrey Advertiser. 20 November 1916. p. 3.
  49. ^ "Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London for 1912: Wednesday, October 16th, 1912". Transactions of the Entomological Society of London. 1912: xcvi. 1913. Retrieved 2019.
  50. ^ "President's Address. 28th January 1953". Proceedings and Transactions of the South London Entomological and Natural History Society. 1952-53: 62. 1954. Retrieved 2019.
  51. ^ "Natural History Society". Surrey Advertiser. 8 August 1914. p. 2.
  52. ^ "Weddings Today. Mr C. T. Bowring and Miss Parker". The Globe. 29 October 1908. p. 8.
  53. ^ "Expensive Butterflies". Illustrated Police News. 31 August 1916. p. 10.
  54. ^ "Many Local Names in New Year Honours List. Entomologist". Harrow Observer. 9 January 1958. p. 9.
  55. ^ a b Harvey, Julie M.V.; Gilbert, Pamela; Martin, Kathy (1996). A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Entomology Library of the Natural History Museum, London. London: Mansell Publishing Limited. pp. 114-115. ISBN 0-7201-2290-2. Retrieved 2019.
  56. ^ "The Sale Room - Joicey Collection". The Times. 29 April 1932. p. 7.
  57. ^ "Natural History Museum: Gift of Butterfly Collection". The Times. 27 March 1934. p. 17.
  58. ^ "Mr. J. J. Joicey" (PDF). Nature. 129 (3258): 535. 9 April 1932. doi:10.1038/129535a0. Retrieved 2019.
  59. ^ "Lepidoptera collections". National History Museum. Retrieved 2019.
  60. ^ "Recent Acquisitions at the Natural History Museum" (PDF). Nature. 133 (3361): 490. 31 March 1934. doi:10.1038/133490b0. Retrieved 2019.

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