VERNAY, Arthur Stannard.

Collection of 16 photographic albums; [together with:] typescript diary.

[1920s-30s] Stock Code: 133409
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A photographic insight into some of the most important wildlife expeditions of the inter-war years

An extraordinary personal archive of over 3,000 original photographs assembled by one of the most renowned naturalists and big-game hunters of the inter-war years. Spanning Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia, these albums offer an unrivalled insight into some of the most significant scientific expeditions of the period, many undertaken at the behest of the American Museum of Natural History.

The centrepiece of the collection is perhaps the four volumes covering the 1924 Vernay-Faunthorpe Expedition to India, the results of which were housed in the "first major hall of mammal habitat dioramas", the South Asiatic Hall, opened at the AMNH in 1930. "These expeditions were important to the development of the Museum and its collection, providing an estimate of over 1,275 specimens, including 976 bird skins, and 299 mammals. Numerous films and photographs were also added to the Museum collection. It was hoped that this would be an example of the camaraderie that may exist between peoples of different nations. Both Vernay and Faunthorpe were made honorary members of the American Museum of Natural History, and Vernay would go on to organize and fund many other expeditions for the Museum" (AMNH).

The photographs well preserved and presented across sixteen strong, cogently compiled and extensively captioned albums - reflect Vernay's awareness of the importance of the visual record and his cultivated eye; his employment of professional photographers and high quality apparatus, his obvious concern for "thoroughness and perfection". The images are consistently well composed and printed, displaying good contrast, excellent tonal range and fine detailing. The approach to the photographing of animals and birds is more forensic, stressing the scientific and taxonomic importance of these expeditions.

Arthur Stannard Vernay (1877-1960) was a remarkable, multi-faceted man of protean energy and tremendous acumen; from a standing start he built up one of New York's premier antique and interior design businesses, numbering among his clients Mrs J. P. Morgan, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Solomon R. Guggenheim, the Waldorf-Astoria (for whom he developed a series of apartments), and perhaps most importantly Henry Francis du Pont, who worked closely with Vernay in the foundation of the Winterthur Museum, where Vernay's business papers are held.

During a visit to India in 1921 Vernay stayed with the coffee-planter and hunter-naturalist Ralph Morris and it was here, in the Biligirirangan Hills, that he first experienced game animals in the wild. This expedition made a tremendous impression on Vernay and he shortly afterwards entered into discussions with Colonel J. C. Faunthorpe concerning a return to India, "out of which came their joint offer to the American Museum of Natural History to collect Asiatic mammals for a projected new hall in the museum" (Vernay's obituary in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History, Vol. 58, No. 1, April 1961). The first Vernay-Faunthorpe Expedition to India took place in 1922-23, and was "quickly followed by five other expeditions in India, Burma, Siam, and Malaya on which the collections of mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and botanical specimens for the Asiatic Hall were made" (ibid.). A number of animal species carry the nomenclature Vernayi, including two species of climbing mouse found in northern Myanmar-southern China and central Angola; "Vernay's Lion", also known as the Kalahari Lion, although "not now generally recognised as a valid sub-species" (The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009, p. 429); the Angolan File Snake and ten bird species.

Born in Weymouth, Dorset, a resort town on the south coast of England, Vernay's father was the composer and organist Thomas Crabb Avant (1835-1923) and his mother, Avant's second wife, was Louisa Stannard (b. 1849); they divorced in 1896. Avant remarried in 1904 and this date coincides with Vernay's decision to emigrate to New York and change his name (perhaps tellingly he retained his mother's maiden name of Stannard). The ship's manifest for the SS Arabic, a White Star liner, shows that he sailed from Liverpool for New York, on 21 August 1904; his occupation was given as "decorator", and it was noted that he had more than 50 dollars with him and had visited New York earlier that year. He found work, it is reported, as an elevator operator at A. J. Crawford's, a furniture store. From this inauspicious start he opened his own antiques shop, Arthur S. Vernay, Inc., just two years later, in 1906. The business flourished and over the next decades he would open further branches in Manhattan, Newport, Rhode Island, and London. By the 1920s Vernay's business was thriving and his finances secure, which enabled him to "focus his attention on his interest in nature, hunting, and collecting animal specimens for museums. In 1922 he began his association with the American Museum of Natural History" (AMNH).

It was at this point that Vernay struck up his most profitable partnership, with the British army officer Colonel John Champion Faunthorpe (1871-1929), a veteran gun who had served for many years in India with the Civil Service. In a warm obituary, Vernay described Faunthorpe as "an incomparable companion unruffled, full of resourcefulness and humour and efficiency. I never expect to see a finer type of sportsman, for he was not only a marvellous shot, with a profound knowledge of shikar hunting, but he also had the true sportsmanship of character and outlook" (Natural History: The Journal of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XXXI, 1931, p. 75). Faunthorpe's profound knowledge of India and all aspects of big-game hunting was invaluable in their six expeditions together. In Big Game Shooting Records (1932), Edgar N. Barclay remarked that "as a big-game hunter and rifle shot, and particularly as a howdah shot, it is doubtful if he ever had a superior in India".

Faunthorpe also had some familiarity with cinematography, as he had been director of the War Office Cinematograph Committee (WOCC) at GHQ in France and was in charge of the famous Somme footage shot by Geoffrey Malins. This is pertinent in light of the fact that the expedition's cameraman, George Miller Dyott, would record their exploits in a film of 1929, Hunting Tigers in India (another film, Naked Man and Beast, also 1929, a travelogue which explored the jungles of India, includes much footage of elephants and a sequence of tiger-hunting apparently from the Vernay-Faunthorpe Expedition). Dyott was himself a rather dashing figure, an aviation pioneer who in 1927 followed in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt, becoming only the second person to traverse the Amazonian "Rio da Dúvida" (River of Doubt); in 1929 he set out to try and locate the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett, who was missing somewhere in the Brazilian jungle. The 1924 Indian expedition, sailing from New York in January, continued the work of the preceding years, its main thrust being the acquisition of several rare specimens for the AMNH, in particular the Sumatran rhinoceros, but also the pink-headed duck, Schomburgk's deer, the "rare Indian buffalo" (perhaps the endangered wild water buffalo Bubalus arnee) and the "almost extinct" Asiatic lion (Panthera leo leo). Faunthorpe joined Vernay and his team at Calcutta in March and the newspapers of the day reported that the expedition could expect "many months, under the pitiless Indian sun and through weary miles of danger-bristling Indian jungles".

The archive:

Japan-Korea-China-Siam (November 1920 January 1921): 2 volumes, landscape quarto (245 x 320 mm). Contemporary commercial photograph albums, blue-green cloth, titled and numbered on spines in white ink, photographs mounted on drab grey heavy card stock leaves, stub-mounted. Approximately 300 photographs mounted recto and verso, sizes varying between 80 x 130 mm and 100 x 150 mm, some captioning in earlier volume, full captioning in later.

Vol. I: 25 leaves.

Vol. II: 25 leaves.

Particularly arresting, extensively-captioned sequence of images covering an East Asia excursion, the opening two photographs showing the deck of RMS Empress of Russia, the fastest ship of its day on the Hong Kong-Shanghai-Nagasaki-Kobe-Yokohama-Vancouver route. This is followed by images of Yokohama, Kyoto, shooting the Hozu Rapids, with "morie actors" posing as samurai, and a fine shot of timber being transported down river. Next is a series of views in Korea: Fusan (Busan), Mukden (Shenyang), Seoul, one of "soldiers of the Chinese Northern Army under General Chang-Tso-Lin", the bandit warlord Zhang Zuolin. Following this is an extensive sequence on China, focusing on Peking (Beijing), some 47 images, the Ming Tombs in the Changping District (13), the Great Wall (5) Shanghai (15), the journey to Thailand, and some 85 photographs (not captioned) of Thai temples and local peoples. These volumes include some powerfully evocative images, including a Chinese falconer, a Tibetan Buddhist priest, two Japanese bearers carrying a litter (or kago) with Mount Fuji in the distance, and various Korean "types".

China-Siam-Southern Shan States, landscape quarto (280 x 410 mm). Contemporary dark green half morocco-grain skiver post-binder, green cloth sides, photographs mounted on dark drab-green heavy card stock leaves. 30 leaves, one photograph per leaf mounted recto and verso, total of 60 photographs, mainly 230 x 290 mm, some captioned in white ink.

A remarkable album presenting a selection of skillfully chosen images from the Japan-Korea-China-Siam volumes, here reproduced to dramatic and consciously artistic effect at full-plate size, sepia-toned and printed on textured paper, including the images of the Chinese falconer and Buddhist priest, and a sequence of seven of temples at Wat Pho, Bangkok; all are superbly detailed and atmospheric.

Vernay-Faunthorpe Expedition 1924: 4 volumes, landscape quarto (300 x 425 mm). Contemporary black pebble-grain cloth albums, photographs mounted on black heavy card stock leaves, stub-mounted, tissue guards intact. Approximately 766 photographs in total, 17 loosely inserted into vol. I (these with wet stamp on verso, "Vernay-Faunthorpe Expedition to India"), 749 mounted recto and verso, sizes varying between 90 x 100 mm and 165 x 115 mm, not captioned.

Vol. I: 18 leaves.

Vol. II: 18 leaves.

Vol. III: 23 leaves.

Vol. IV: 30 leaves.

This series opens with the journey out to India on the SS Mantua, the Clyde-built passenger liner that ran the London-India-Australia mail route. Throughout these volumes the expedition is superbly chronicled in an excellent series of images taken in the field, many of Vernay and Faunthorpe with fellow-shooter Ralph Morris mounted on elephants; tiger, elephant, wild pig and other game are all pictured; also local peoples, village life and scenery; the expedition passes through Port Said, the towering statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps the focus in a number of shots; volume 3 includes eight images of the Great Stupa at Sinchi, the oldest stone structure in India. The images in volumes 1 and 2 are mounted nine or ten per page; the remaining volumes comprising larger images.

Africa 1924 ("No. 5") and Angola 1925, both volumes same size and same binding as above.

Africa: 29 leaves, approximately 406 photographs mounted recto and verso, mainly 120 x 100 mm; 15 loosely inserted (various sizes); 4 larger images (170 x 230 mm) mounted on grey-brown card stock (apparently from China expedition). Approximately 425 photographs in total.

Angola: 55 leaves, approximately 660 photographs mounted recto and verso, mainly 120 x 100 mm.

Hot on the heels of the expedition to India, the Vernay-Angola Expedition covered the months April-October 1925 and was undertaken in collaboration with the AMNH's German-born Curator of Mammology Herbert Lang. Its main object was the acquisition of the rare Giant Sable Antelope, a stuffed example of which Vernay had first seen at the Natural History Museum in London. In his book A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola (Grove Press, 2018), John Frederick Walker gives a detailed account of the mission and comments that, "the Vernay-Angola Expedition was no hunting trip with some scientific collecting tacked on There was hardly any zoological material from Angola in any American museum, and the opportunity to broaden the collecting was eagerly seized upon Rudyerd Boulton, from the AMNH department of birds, was appointed ornithologist, and the scope of the trip became a virtual biological survey". Vernay did indeed achieve his goal, as illustrated in a sequence of some twenty images. The Africa expedition of 1924 is little recorded, the AMNH noting that between January and March of that year Vernay was in Burma, Siam and Assam, primarily in search of the Sumatran rhino.

Bikanir Bikaner, Rajasthan, India and Lion 1929; Persia 1929; Personal album: each volume landscape quarto (235 x 310 mm). Contemporary dark green half morocco-grain skiver post-binders, green cloth sides, photographs mounted on dark drab-green heavy card stock leaves.

Bikanir and Lion: 30 leaves, approximately 105 photographs mounted recto and verso, mainly 115 x 165 mm.

Persia: 23 leaves, approximately 84 photographs mounted recto and verso, mainly 100 x 130 mm.

Personal album untitled: 28 leaves, approximately 129 photographs mounted recto and verso, 90 x 115 mm up to 115 x 170 mm.

The "Bikanir and Lion" album (1929) records the progress of Vernay's lion safari - many of the images are captioned "no negative" - when he operated from a base at Bikaner, Rajasthan, in North West India. This was reported by the New York Times under the headline "Three Asiatic Lions Bagged By Vernay; Hunter for American Museum Crossed Desert by Motor Drove with Wife from Scene of Hunt to Persia". Some fine images include the party in the field, using hides, apparently in the company of the Maharajah of Bikaner. Both the "Persia" and untitled personal album cover a period of "time off" when Vernay was sightseeing; the latter volume includes some atmospheric shots of London and several of biplanes operated by the pioneering Pashley Brothers.

Canada-India-British Columbia: landscape quarto (280 x 410 mm). Contemporary dark green half morocco-grain skiver post-binder, green cloth sides, photographs mounted on dark drab-green heavy card stock leaves. 18 leaves, one photograph per leaf mounted recto and verso, total of 17 sepia-toned photographs printed on textured paper, mainly 205 x 300 mm.

Despite its title this album concentrates solely on India and draws together, in the same manner as the "Shan States" volume, some of the most impressive images from the tiger hunting expedition, a number of which may be drawn from Dyott's travelogue Naked Man and Beast.

Vernay-Lang Kalahari Expedition (1930): 3 volumes, landscape quarto (315 x 420 mm). Contemporary dark green half morocco-grain skiver post-binders, green cloth sides, photographs mounted on dark drab-green heavy card stock leaves. Approximately 730 photographs mounted recto and verso, fully captioned in white ink, mainly 115 x 165 mm.

Vol. I: 25 leaves.

Vol. II: 25 leaves.

Vol. III: 23 leaves.

The Kalahari mission was a joint expedition for the Field Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum (London), and the AMNH. "The group crossed the Kalahari, proceed to Ngamiland and then to Livingstone, over a period of three months and a half of travel. The expedition started from Gaberones on March 17, 1929, and the work was not completed until the summer of 1930 The expedition collected specimens including the following species, blesbok, black wildebeeste, red hartebeeste, gemsbok, lechwe, springbok, steinbok, and sassaby, while among the mammals taken for the study series are such species as giraffe, Burchell's zebra, eland, sable, etc. In addition smaller mammals, birds, fishes, insects, and specimens of lower invertebrates" (AMNH). Some of the finest images of the entire collection are present here, being particularly clear and sharply-defined and including both wildlife and ethnographic subjects, the latter concentrating on some superb studies of the San peoples of the Kalahari, also known as the Bushmen, and the Damara.

"Shikar Hunting Diary A. S. V. No. 2": Quarto (260 x 230 mm). Contemporary black morocco-grain skiver ring binder ("Walker's Loose Leaf Book"). Typescript diary: 53 leaves typed recto only numbered 113-165 (a few leaves out of sequence); pp. 113-137 covering the Vernay Angola Expedition (1925), running from 17 May to 26 August; pp. 138-165 covering the "India Burma Expedition, Rhino Sondaicus the Javan rhino, 1927-1928", running from 15 December 1927 to 12 April 1929; a further 24 leaves (unnumbered) covering the Kalahari Expedition (1930), running from 12 February to 2 June 1925. Shikar is the Urdu word for hunting.

A fascinating volume offering insight into Vernay's developing conception of the relationship between hunting, collection and conservation. Tracking springbok in Angola (June 1925), he notes that they have "Shot a good female s.buck sic, and three others. Don't like this: too many. Lang insists on 20. He must be content with 15. Shall get one for self and one for Explorers' Club. This antelope will soon be extinct. One party came out and killed 80. A very beautiful animal, with peculiar pecking motion when first alarmed, and then a long spring These buck will soon be wiped out".

Total: approx. 3, 300 photographs.

Provenance: 1) Arthur Stannard Vernay; 2) Stephen J. Jussel (1898-1981), Vernay's business partner and long-time associate, to whom Vernay left many of his possessions, including these albums; 3) thence by descent.

In 1941 Vernay retired from the antiques business and settled permanently at his home in Nassau, Bahamas, with one final outburst of expeditionary zeal in the form of the Nyasaland Expedition of 1946-47. His passion for the natural world and conservation remained undimmed. "After 1946 he became interested in Orchids, and he soon became one of the world's authorities cultivating a very fine collection. He visited South America in his searches for orchids, and studied the Spanish language for this purpose. This was so typical of the man; whatever he took up he carried out with thoroughness and perfection" (Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society). In his book Decorations and English Interiors (1927) Vernay remarked of the acquisition of antiques that, "collecting these various specimens demands the utmost care and expert knowledge, and, sometimes, considerable patience", a comment that could be said to be equally true of his remarkable exploits in the field of natural history. He continued, "great and important effects are not essential to the decorative schemes The large or the small space can, with equal facility, be made not only decoratively correct but to possess the charm and the individuality which the owner gives it. It is a question of the right form of expression and the right selection". These latter qualities come together here in what is an outstanding contribution to the recording of the natural world, memorialising perhaps the greatest efflorescence of big-game hunting in the service of study and conservation.

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16 volumes, landscape quarto, one quarto typescript diary (see below). Approximately 3,300 original silver gelatin prints, some with sepia-finish.


A few scuffs and marks to bindings, some leaves loose but overall in remarkably good condition.


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