Jevons Family Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of William Stanley Jevons and other members of the Jevons family.

The Jevons collection is a rich source of original material relating to the life and work of William Stanley Jevons, one of the leading economists of the Victorian age, and a founder of the "marginal revolution". However, the collection also includes a substantial body of material on other members of his family, and provides interesting insights on the fortunes of a middle class Unitarian family during the nineteenth century.

The Jevons papers were used extensively in the production of the standard edition of Jevons's papers by Professor R. D. Collison Black and Rosamond Könekamp, Papers and correspondence of William Stanley Jevons, (Macmillan, London, for the Royal Economic Society, 1972-81, 7 volumes).The scope of Professor Black's study is such that JRUL's collection of Jevons' papers may profitably be described in relation to his work. Professor Black's declared intention was to include only that correspondence of William Stanley Jevons relating to economics, and only that family correspondence which touched upon 'external' affairs rather than purely personal matters. The seven volumes also contain Jevons's 'Journal' and a number of previously unpublished works on economic subjects. Thus, while the published correspondence contains letters on economic subjects which are not held in Manchester, the Jevons archives in the Library contain a large body of correspondence on a wide range of other academic subjects, as well as many largely unpublished letters between members of the Jevons family, not covered by Professor Black's edition. In any study of Jevons's correspondence, including papers held elsewhere, the present list can be used to maximum advantage in conjunction with the index (in volume VII) to Professor Black's work.

Though the Library's holdings contain material relating to about 40 members of the Jevons family, and members of the related families of Roscoe, Taylor, and Boyce, the greater part of the collection is directly concerned with William Stanley Jevons (JA/6). This section contains over 600 items of correspondence, including 180 from family and relatives (JA/6/1). Jevons's work, and to a certain extent that of his correspondents, was interdisciplinary, and his academic correspondence (JA/6/2) covers a very wide range of topics. Correspondents include: Sir Robert Palgrave, H.S. Foxwell, Robert Lowe, Walter Bagehot, Sir John Herschel, Alexander Bain, J. E. Cairnes, Léon Walras, George Boole, Augustus de Morgan, Herbert Spencer, Thorold Rogers, and John Stuart Mill.

The collection of Jevons's diaries and notebooks (JA/6/4/1-22) contains, in addition to the published 'Journal' and 'diary of a journey to the diggings', a number of diaries for the period 1854-62, including material on his career in Australia. Jevons's Australian days are perhaps recorded most vividly in the well known collection of original photographs, most of which are contained in two albums (JA/33/1/1-2).

The most extensive section of the whole archive is the collection of material written or collected by Jevons in his study of a wide range of academic disciplines. These are arranged in the following categories: Logic (JA/6/5); Political economy-general (JA/6/6); Political economy-specific subjects (JA/6/7-6/26); natural sciences (JA/6/27-6/32); social science topics (JA/6/33-6/44), and miscellaneous 'minor' topics (JA/6/45-48).

In addition to the manuscripts of his principal published works, there are a number of substantial pieces of lesser-known writing. These include 'A fundamental error in the late Prof. Boole's method of probabilities' (JA/6/5/12); 'The solar influence on commerce' (JA/6/2/11); 'Experimental legislation and the drink traffic' (JA/6/33/3); and 'The rationale of free public libraries' (JA/6/41/1). Other material includes printed copies of Jevons's articles and pamphlets, newscuttings and other printed items relating to his subjects of study, and copies of articles by contemporary students of the same fields of scholarship. Above all, there is a mass of rough notes and drafts on a great range of subjects which provide invaluable evidence as to the nature of Jevons's preliminary research and thoughts. There is a particular profusion of such notes on J. S. Mill's logical methods (JA/6/5/42-96); the quantification of the predicate (JA/6/5/104-50); logic in general (JA/6/5/152-220); banks and banking (JA/6/7/1-142); coal (JA/6/9/1-225); iron and steel (JA/6/13/1-79); land (JA/6/14/1-62); sunspots and economic fluctuations (JA/6/21/1-68); taxation (JA/6/22/1-55); trade and commerce (6/23/1-186); human nature and evolution (JA/6/36/1-86); and population (JA/6/42/1-93). Of particular sociological interest are certain groups of material on matters not usually associated with Jevons's work. These include the original forms from a survey on family budgetting (JA/6/34), contemporary data on infant mortality and welfare (JA/6/38) and material for a study of the social consequences of the employment of women (JA/6/44). Jevons's papers are followed by three small compilations consisting of documents relating to his career (JA/6/49), printed comments on his work (JA/6/50) and obituary material (JA/6/51).

Of the forty or so other members of the Jevons family who figure in the archives, the best represented are William Stanley's father Thomas (JA/3); Thomas' eldest daughter Lucy Ann Hutton (JA/4) (William Stanley Jevons' sister); Harriet Ann (JA/7), William Stanley's wife; and their son Herbert Stanley Jevons (JA/8). There is a substantial body of largely unpublished correspondence addressed to both Thomas and Harriet Ann Jevons. Documents trace the career of Thomas as a businessman and inventor, while Lucy's papers include a lengthy manuscript entitled 'Recollections of my brother', written shortly after his death. A number of Harriet's diaries of touring holidays survive, as do ephemera relating to Herbert Stanley's childhood. The remaining family correspondence includes 36 letters from William Stanley Jevons to his elder brother Herbert (JA/5), 44 to his younger sister Henrietta Elizabeth ('Henny') (JA/10), and 18 to his youngest brother Thomas Edwin (JA/11). There is valuable genealogical information on the families of Jevons and Roscoe, and a few items relate to Harriet Ann Jevons's relations, the Taylors and the Boyces.

The ephemera which conclude the list include numerous family photographs (JA/33); an original watercolour painting of Bay Lodge, Bowdon, Cheshire, the family home of Harriet Ann Jevons and her sisters, and three original tinted drawings; three printed books bound by the young William Stanley Jevons (JA/34); and a small collection of nineteenth century maps of London (JA/35).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Jevons family

The Jevons family traced their origins to south Staffordshire. The founder of the family fortune, William Jevons (1760 - 1852) moved to Liverpool, where he became a very successful iron merchant. He married Ann Wood (1767-1846), and they had several children including Thomas (1791-1855), William (1794-1873) and Timothy (1798-1874). Both Thomas and Timothy became partners in the family business, Jevons & Sons. The Jevons family were prominent members of the Unitarian community in Liverpool.

Thomas Jevons initially enjoyed success as a businessman. He was also a part-time inventor and designer, building early versions of iron boats, and was interested in political and social issues, writing pamphlets on penal reform and the abolition of the Corn Laws. Thomas married Mary Anne Roscoe (1795-1845), a member of a prominent Liverpool Unitarian family. Mary's father was William Roscoe (1753-1831), banker, MP, historian and patron of the arts. She grew up in a cultivated and intellectually accomplished environment; her siblings included William Stanley Roscoe (1782-1843), a poet, Henry Roscoe (1800-1836), a barrister and legal author, and father of Henry Enfield Roscoe, the distinguished chemist, and Thomas Roscoe (1791-1871), writer and translator. Mary Anne was herself an accomplished poet, author of Sonnets and other poems, chiefly devotional (1845) and editor of several other collections

Thomas and Mary Anne Jevons were to have six children who survived infancy: Roscoe (1829 - 1869), who after showing great promise as a chemist succumbed to lunacy, Lucy Ann (1830 - 1910), Herbert (1831-1874), William Stanley (1835-1882), the economist, logician and philosopher of science, Henrietta (1839-1909) and Thomas Edwin (1841-1917), a successful businessman, who eventually settled in New York. The Jevons children initially grew up in secure and prosperous circumstances. However, in 1845 their mother died, and this was followed by financial catastrophe in 1848, when the firm of Jevons and Sons went bankrupt. It was eventually refounded, but Thomas Jevons had by this stage lost his wealth, and was forced to work as the agent for another iron company in Liverpool.

William Stanley Jevons

William Stanley Jevons was educated at Liverpool Mechanics Institute High School, then at a private school in Liverpool, and at University College School, London. In 1851 he enrolled at University College, London, following his brother, Herbert. Jevons spent two years at UCL, studying a range of subjects, particularly chemistry under Thomas Graham and A W Williamson, and mathematics and logic under Augustus de Morgan.

His original plans were to enter business in Liverpool to earn enough money to live as a writer, but straitened financial circumstances forced him to take up the post of assayer in Sydney, New South Wales in 1854. This post was attached to the newly established mint responsible for producing coin for the colony. Jevons stayed for five years in Australia. He proved successful as an assayer, a position which did not make considerable demands on his time. This allowed him to pursue his private intellectual interests, which included mathematics, logic, social statistics, meteorology, geology, music and photography. He also took an interest in economic questions, particularly the development of the Australian railways, on which he published three articles in 1857.

In 1859 Jevons gave up his work as an assayer, and enrolled for a second time at UCL. He had begun to take a serious interest in both political economy and logic, and published articles on these subjects during his student years. In 1862 he was awarded a M.A., and won the Gold Medal for philosophy and political economy. During this time, he shared a house with his sisters and his younger brother, Tom, who was also a student at UCL.

Initially, Jevons reputation owed as much to his work on logic as on economics. He produced a good deal of original work on the theory of logic, and was keen to raise the status of logic as a science in its own right, and as one shorn of metaphysics. In 1864 Jevons published Pure logic or the logic of quality apart from quantity, which followed the mathematical analysis of logic associated with George Boole. He also wrote a critique of Mill's logic, The substitution of similars (1869), as well as On a general system of numerically definite reasoning, Elementary lessons in logic (both 1870), Studies in deductive logic (1880), and a textbook, A primer of logic (1876).

However it was as an economist that Jevons really established his reputation. He did innovative work on economic fluctuations while still a student, producing a 'Statistical Atlas', which examined commercial data from the Bank of England and other institutions month by month from 1731. In 1862, he submitted two papers to the British Association for its forthcoming meeting at Cambridge: 'Notice of a general mathematical theory of political economy' and 'On the study of periodic commercial fluctuations' in which a time series analysis was applied to business cycles. These papers sketched out in rudimentary form his subjective theory of economic value, which would underpin the "marginal revolution". Neither attracted the attention Jevons had hoped for, and it was not until the publication of his paper on the fluctuations in the value of gold, 'A serious fall in the value of gold ascertained...' (1863), that his work attracted serious attention. Jevons' economic interests were typically wide-ranging; in 1865 he published The coal question: an enquiry concerning the progress of the nation and probable exhaustion of our coal mines, which considered the economic effects of declining British coal supplies in the face of an expanding population. In 1871 he published The theory of political economy, which took a mathematical view of the subject, and outlined the theory of marginal utility, which revolutionised the study of economics in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In 'On the mathematical theory of Political Economy' Jevons showed that he and Professor Léon Walras had arrived independently at the same fundamental theories. He also produced a successful Primer of political economy (1878), which was translated into French and Italian. At the time of his death, he was engaged in writing a major work, A treatise on economics.

In 1863, Jevons had at last achieved regular employment when he was appointed to the post of tutor at Owens College, Manchester. He largely owed this position to the influence of his cousin, Henry Enfield Roscoe, who was professor of chemistry at the College (Jevons had lived with the Roscoe family when a student in London in the early 1850s). The post did not enjoy high status or remuneration; in essence, Jevons' role was to provide remedial tutoring to those Owens students who did not meet the standard of the College's general teaching. In the 1865-6 session, Jevons relinquished this post on becoming lecturer in political economy and logic, and in 1866, he was appointed to a new chair of logic, mental and moral philosophy, and of political economy.

Jevons had little interest in university administration, and disliked lecturing. He was however a frequent attender of statistical societies in Manchester and London, and his advice on economic topics was sought from government, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robert Lowe. In 1876 Jevons was appointed to the chair in political economy at University College, London, which he held until 1880. In his later years Jevons became increasingly interested in social questions, and his views were expounded in The state in relation to labour, (1882) and numerous periodical articles.

Jevons was something of a polymath with interests as varied as sunspots, Brownian movement of microscopic particles in liquids and rainbows. He also built a 'logical machine', which some considered a forerunner of the computer. In 1872 he was appointed to the Royal Society. Jevons married Harriet Ann Taylor, the daughter of John Edward Taylor senior, the founder of the Manchester Guardian, in 1867, and they lived in Parsonage Road, Withington, Manchester. He was passionately fond of music, particularly Wagner, played the organ, and was an accomplished skater. He also built up a important collection of economics books, and was an advocate of publicly-funded libraries. Jevons died by drowning in 1882 while swimming at Galley Hill, near Hastings. After his death a fund was set up in his name for the encouragement of economic research.

William Stanley Jevons was one of the outstanding economists of the nineteenth century, who played a central role in the development of the 'marginal revolution', which marked the beginning of modern neo-classical economics. However he made a number of important and original contributions in other areas including the philosophy of science, meteorology, geology, astronomy, logic, sociology, history and the theory of modern business cycles.


The collection is arranged into sections for each family member represented in the archive. These sections may be further divided into series, although only the papers of William Stanley Jevons (JA/6) have substantial subdivision in this way.

  • JA/1 - William Jevons (1760-1852);
  • JA/2 - Ann Jevons (1767-1846);
  • JA/3 - Thomas Jevons (1791-1855);
  • JA/4 - Lucy Ann Hutton (1830-1910);
  • JA/5 - Herbert Jevons (1831-1874);
  • JA/6 - William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882);
  • JA/7 - Harriet Ann Jevons (1838-1910);
  • JA/8 - Herbert Stanley Jevons (1875-1955);
  • JA/9 - Harriet Winefrid Jevons (1877-1961);
  • JA/10 - Henrietta Elizabeth Jevons (1839-1909);
  • JA/11 - Thomas Edwin Jevons (1841-1917);
  • JA/12 - Ferdinand Roscoe Talbot Jevons (1876-1967);
  • JA/13 - Richard Roscoe (1793-1864);
  • JA/14 - Jane Elizabeth Hornblower (1797-1853);
  • JA/15 - Francis Hornblower (1812-1853);
  • JA/16 - Henry Enfield Roscoe (1833-1915);
  • JA/17 - Edward Enfield (1811-1880);
  • JA/18 - Miscellaneous Roscoe material;
  • JA/19 - William Jevons (1794-1873);
  • JA/20 - Ann Worthington (1796-1826);
  • JA/21 - Timothy Jevons (1798-1874);
  • JA/22 - Henry Jevons (1825-1914);
  • JA/23 - Sara Acland Jevons (1837-1894)
  • JA/24 - Mary Ann Jevons (1840-1910)
  • JA/24a - Harriet, Sarah and Mary Ann Jevons
  • JA/25 - John Edward Taylor snr. (1791-1844)
  • JA/26 - Harriet Acland Taylor (1802-1844)
  • JA/27 - Boyce family
  • JA/28 - Sophia Russell Taylor (1826-1868)
  • JA/29 - Russell Scott Taylor (1825-1848)
  • JA/30 - John Edward Taylor jnr. (1830-1905)
  • JA/31 - Scott family
  • JA/32 - Miscellaneous genealogical material on the Jevons family and their relations
  • JA/33 - Photographs, portraits and related items
  • JA/34 - Printed books belonging to the Jevons family
  • JA/35 - Printed maps
  • JA/36 - Miscellaneous items

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Other Finding Aids

The catalogue was originally published as Peter McNiven, 'Handlist of the Jevons archives in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 66.1, 1983.

Alternative Form Available

Separated Material

William Stanley Jevons' papers on statistics are kept at the Royal Statistical Society. His lecture notes 1852-1861 are held at the University of Glasgow Archives Services. A cash book from his period in Australia is kept at State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library (ML MSS 1155).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The Jevons archives originated from two main sources. The greater part of the collection comprises material given to the Library by Mrs Rosamond Könekamp, daughter of William Stanley Jevons's son Herbert Stanley. A first instalment consisting of papers relating to Jevons's professional career was deposited in the Library in 1961, and a quantity of family and other personal material was added in 1971. In 1976, Mrs Könekamp donated this part of the Jevons Archive to the Library.

The second, smaller group consisted of papers relating to William Stanley Jevons' papers on logic and philosophy which were originally entrusted to Dr Wolfe Mays of the University's Department of Philosophy, by Professor Herbert Stanley Jevons. These too were eventually donated to the Library in 1978.

Related Material

The Library purchased a small collection of William Stanley Jevons' correspondence in 2003 (Acc.2003/004, uncatalogued). This includes correspondence between Jevons' and Henry Enfield Roscoe and George Howard Darwin (1845-1912, mathematician and son of Charles Darwin). There are 11 letters from Jevons to Roscoe, 1857-1870, four of which were written while Jevons was in Australia, which discuss meteorology, photography and gold extraction, as well as containing details of life in Australia. There eight letters from Jevons to Darwin, 1874-1879, all but two of which are concerned with mathematics and statistics. There are nine letters to Jevons from various correspondents, 1866-1878 from G.H. Darwin (2 items), 2 letters from the scientist John Tyndall (1820-93), 1 from William Langton (1803-91, Manchester banker and statistician)), 2 from Stephen Williamson (1827-1903, Liverpool banker), 1 from John Mills (1821-96, banker), 1 from Christian Ludwig Madsen (1827-99, Danish engineer), and 1 from Albert Edwards. There are also single letters from Roscoe and Darwin to Herbert Stanley Jevons, son of W.S. Jevons, 1897 and 1907.

JRUL also holds the papers of R.D. Collison Black (1922-2008) [Acc.2002/004, uncatalogued], editor of the published edition of Jevons' writings, and a leading expert on his life and ideas. This collection is currently uncatalogued, but includes a wide range of research notes and correspondence relating to his work on Jevons. The papers of Jevons' cousin Henry Roscoe (GB 133 ROS) are held by JRUL, although this collection does not include any material directly relating to W S Jevons. The Owens College archive includes records relating to Jevons' academic appointments and duties at the College: OCA.

Jevons' correspondence with his brother Thomas forms part of the Seton-Jevons collection, held at Seton-Hall University, New York. These papers are briefly described in R.D. Collison Black, 'The papers and correspondence of William Stanley Jevons: a supplementary note', The Manchester School 50.4, 1982, pp. 417-428. The Library has a copy of the catalogue of the Seton-Jevons collection.

The Economists' papers website provides further information on archive collections of UK economists, including Jevons. [Accessed 1 Jun 2010].

Papers of Jevons' mother, Mary Anne Jevons, do not form part of this collection. Her literary journal and correspondence are kept at Liverpool Record Office .

Location of Originals

Some of the items in the collection are photocopies; the current location of the originals is not known.


There is as yet no full-length biography of William Stanley Jevons. For general biographical information, see the "Biographical introduction" to the edition of R. D. Collison Black and Rosamond Könekamp, Jevons's papers and correspondence i. (London, 1972), pp. 1-52. The Papers and correspondence comprise seven volumes of material relating to Jevons, including material from the present collection, as well as related material in other collections. This edition updated the Letters and journal of W. Stanley Jevons (London 1886), edited by Harriet Anne Jevons, although not all the material reproduced in that volume was located by Black and Könekamp.

Also of value for biographical information are J. M. Keynes's essay 'William Stanley Jevons, 1835-1882: a centenary allocution on his life and work as economist and statistician' in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, xcix.2, pp 5 16-48, reprinted in Essays in biography, new ed., ed. G. Keynes (London, 1951), pp. 255-309; and the Dictionary of National Biography entry for Jevons by R.D. Collison Black.

The Manchester School 50.4, 1982, was a special edition for the centenary of Jevons' death, and includes articles on various aspects of his work, including an essay by Lionel Robbins, 'The place of Jevons in the history of economic thought', pp. 310-325. A recent overview of Jevons' thought is Bart Mosselmans, William Stanley Jevons and the cutting edge of economics (Routledge: London 2007).

Family Names

Personal Names