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S. J. Vernoit

(b New York, Feb 7, 1875; d Monaco, Jan 19, 1968).

British mining consultant and collector of American birth. He was educated at the Columbia School of Mines and at Princeton University; by the age of 28 he was the consulting engineer and assistant general manager of the Guggenheim Exploration Company. In 1913, two years after the death of his first wife, he settled in London and became established as a mining consultant. He married Edith Dunn and bought Baroda House in Kensington Palace Gardens. With one of his associates, Herbert Hoover, later President of the USA (1929–33), he reorganized the Kyshtin mine in the Urals. The Selection Trust Ltd, which he established in 1914 to develop and finance profitable mines throughout the world, made great headway after World War I, and he remained its chairman until 1960. He was naturalized as a British citizen in 1933. In his youth he began collecting a range of items, including Western manuscripts and Chinese snuff bottles, but his main passion was collecting Islamic manuscripts and paintings, early Bibles and rare books, Impressionist paintings, French and Russian gold snuffboxes, 18th-century watches, clocks, and stamps. His interest in the Islamic arts of the book, particularly manuscripts of the Koran, was stimulated by frequent visits to Cairo, where he wintered between the wars. Although he had no knowledge of Arabic, Persian, or Turkish, he was keen to give scholars access to his collection and loaned manuscripts to many exhibitions. In ...