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Adding an Icon section in AddingMimeTypes has this:

Now we need to associate an icon with the MIME type. Get an SVG icon and name it "text/extension .svg", or whatever your modified MIME type is named; this will be the icon to represent all instances of the MIME type on your system. For our python example, this is a good choice. Rename the .svg file so that the it matches "text/x-python.svg" (or "insertYourMIMEtype.svg") so that the slashes are replaced with "-" and there are no capital letters.

Then simply run the following command, with 'text/x-python' replaced with your MIME type.

sudo cp text-x-python.svg /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/mimetypes

Relogin and all files ending in the MIME extension will display with that icon.

In my Lubuntu 13.04 system I see very few icons in this folder compared to the MIME types I know are present in the system:

[08:31 AM] /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/mimetypes $ ls
application-certificate-symbolic.svg  libreoffice4.0-oasis-drawing-template.svg       libreoffice4.0-oasis-spreadsheet.svg           package-x-generic-symbolic.svg
application-rss+xml-symbolic.svg      libreoffice4.0-oasis-formula.svg                libreoffice4.0-oasis-spreadsheet-template.svg  text-mkd.svg
audio-x-generic-symbolic.svg          libreoffice4.0-oasis-master-document.svg        libreoffice4.0-oasis-text.svg                  text-x-generic-symbolic.svg
libreoffice4.0-oasis-database.svg     libreoffice4.0-oasis-presentation.svg           libreoffice4.0-oasis-text-template.svg         video-x-generic-symbolic.svg
libreoffice4.0-oasis-drawing.svg      libreoffice4.0-oasis-presentation-template.svg  libreoffice4.0-oasis-web-template.svg          x-office-calendar-symbolic.svg
[08:31 AM] /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/mimetypes $ 

(I installed LibreOffice which isn't included by default on Lubuntu.)

For example, icons for html and pdf aren't here though they are present in, for example, /usr/share/icons/lubuntu/mimes/16.

Then, if one compares the sizes by looking at the contents of the .svg files, the icons for LibreOffice components are ~ 256x256 whereas the others are 16x16.

In short:
What is the purpose of /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/mimetypes/?
Why are so few icons there?
Why do the sizes differ?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

What is the purpose of /usr/share/icons/gnome/scalable/mimetypes/?

The purpose of the x/y/mimetypes folder is to provide icons for the mimetypes (all files).

Why are so few icons there?

In the particular case of that folder it's because most software supplies their own mimetype icons, and they usually put the icons in usr/share/icons/hicolor/mimetypes/[size] instead of the Gnome folders.

Why do the sizes differ?

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