Guide to the Papers of James Hornell (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Hornell, James
Papers of James Hornell (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1883 - 1934
Collection Number
35 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

The papers include drafts, correspondence, cuttings, diaries and journals relating to the Scientific Expeditionary Association expedition to the South Pacific on the St George 1923-24. Also diaries of visits to Indonesia and New Guinea 1918, and diaries kept during visits to the Pacific 1924-40.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1991. (AJCP reel M2626-2631). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Cambridge University Library. West Road, Cambridge, England.

For more information see Catalogues at the Cambridge University Library [].

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

The Hornell Papers form part of the Haddon Papers at Cambridge University Library. The have been listed separately and should be consulted for further material relating to Hornell, and the publication of Canoes of Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia. (

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Hornell, James; Marine biologists; Pacific Ocean; Papua New Guinea; Scientific Expeditionary Association; St George (ship)


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 235, p88.

Biographical / Historical

James Hornell (1865-1949) was born in Manchester and educated in Scotland. It was intended he should enter the family business in Liverpool, but there he came under the influence of Sir William Herdman, Professor of Natural History at University College, Liverpool, and enrolled as a student member of his Liverpool Biological Society in 1886. From 1898 to 1902 he and his father in law, Joseph Sinel, operated the Jersey Biological Station, selling specimens and microscopical preparations. In 1902 Herdman took him to Ceylon to undertake a feasibility study for the Government of Ceylon on pearl fisheries in the Gulf of Manaar. He was Marine Biologist to the Government of Ceylon from 1902 to 1906, when the Government of Madras appointed him Marine Assistant; on the retirement of Sir Frederick Nicholson in 1918 he was appointed Director of the Fisheries Department, a post he held until retirement in 1924. This appointment led Hornell to develop an interest in boats and the ethnology of fishermen.

On retirement he was appointed to the St George Expedition to the Pacific as ethnographer. He joined the ship at Madeira and left it at Tahiti (1925) to continue his research on canoes in the Pacific islands. At Gorgona he found archaeological remains, which he reported on in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16 pp. 401-32. On his return to England the Government sent him to various colonial countries to report on their fisheries, including Mauritius, Malta, and Fiji. He was awarded the Huxley medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute just before his death.

He was the author of over 300 ethnographical articles and books, including, with AC Haddon, Canoes of Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia, Bernice P Bishop Museum, 1936.

See also: Proc. Linnean Society, 161. 1949. pp.244-7.

David Heppell and F.M. West. Sinel, Hornell and the Jersey Biological Station. Societe Jersiaise Annual Bulletin, 1989. pp.69-102.

Item Descriptions

Series 10007. St George Expedition to South Seas (c.376p.), 1923 - 1925

Comprises of draft articles, correspondence, press cuttings, rules for scientific work, itinerary and prospectus for the Scientific Expeditionary Association expedition to South Pacific on St George.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2626.

Series 10011. Photographs and postcards, 1924 - 1925

5 items

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2626.

Subseries (A). Letters from Hornell to his wife during St George Expedition, December 1924 - May 1925

4 items

Filmed selectively.

(Marquesas Islands) re visit to valley of Omoa, decline of the people, dress, dancing. (3p.), 9 January 1925 (File)
St George Expedition to the South Seas: The Marquesas Islanders - a doomed race. (6p.), 30 December 1924 (File)
(MS Monterey en route to Tonga) re stay at Samoa:, 20 April 1925 - 2 May 1925 (File)

'Generally speaking New Zealand rule is not appreciated by either the natives or outside whites, who seem to concur that German rule was more satisfactory', coconut plantations, future plans to visit Tonga and Fiji; impressions of Tonga 'missionary ridden'. (14p.)

(MS Monterey en route to Fiji) re learning string games on Tonga, bark cloth, graves. (7p.), 21 May 1925 (File)

Subseries (B). Hocart's Eddystone Canoe. Envelope, July 1924 - August 1925

1 item
Photographs and article on canoes of Mandegusu (7p.), 14 July 1924 - 25 August 1925 (File)

Series 10015. Navigators

Hornell's notes on voyages of discovery, including Drake and Cook.

Although listed, this material was not filmed by the AJCP.

Series 10019. Outrigger canoes, c.1914-1929

Comprises: manuscripts, notes, press cuttings, and correspondence.

(a) The varieties, geographical distribution and ethnological significance of outrigger canoes by JH. (annotated typescript)

(b) Polynesia: (annotated typescript)

Correspondents include: J Macmillan Brown (Christchurch); James Hornell (en route to Samoa) to Haddon and to E Best (copy); A Thomas (Apia); AC Haddon (Cambridge); William Welch (Sydney); Elsdon Best (Wellington); HD Skinner (Dunedin); James Hornell (Madras) to Skinner (copies).

Subjects include: Polynesian canoes; Hornell's visit to Marquesas, his opinion of St George expedition 'was organised without sufficient forethought'; his visit to Tonga; Haddon's agreement to work on a memoir on outrigger canoes of Oceania; Hornell's membership of Polynesian Society.


Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2626.

Series 10023. Outriggers general

Comprises: notes from publications; rough notes on outrigger canoes; shore sighting birds; queer foods; crocodiles. Some Australian, Pacific examples.

Although listed, this material was not filmed by the AJCP.

Series 10026. Navigation in Oceania

Comprises: off prints, press cuttings, notes from publications, draft articles, including material on Dalgonar which drifted and was cast up on Society Islands in 1913.

Although listed, this material was not filmed by the AJCP.

Series 10039. Fishing

Includes notes on parallelism in boat building methods between ancient Scandinavia and the Pacific.

Although listed, this material was not filmed by the AJCP.

Series 10044. String figures, c.1920's-30's.

Comprises: draft articles, notes, sketches and correspondence on string figures from Polynesia, c.1920's-30's.


Items of interest include:

13 Nov 1930. Johanns Andersen (Alexander Turnbull Library) re similarities between Maori and African string figures.

Comparison of Maori string figures as given by Andersen with those recorded by myself from Central Polynesia and Fiji. (Ms.).

22 June 1926. JH (London) to Bernice P Bishop Museum re his report on string games of Fiji and Polynesia.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2626.

Series 10046. Outrigger canoes, c.1920's-30's

Comprises: notes, sketches, bibliographical notes, press cuttings, correspondence re Polynesian canoes

Correspondents include: AC Haddon (Cambridge); E Best (Wellington); Peter Buck (Honolulu); J Hornell to Haddon re Polynesian migration; HD Skinner (Dunedin); JM Brown (Honolulu) to Haddon.

Includes correspondence between Haddon and Hornell while working on Canoes of Oceania and draft chapters, annotated and amended.


Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reels M2626-M2627.

Series 10056A-D. Working drafts of Canoes in Micronesia, c.1930's

Comprises: JH's sections of Canoes of Oceania working drafts; correspondence (annotated typescript and ms., erratic numbering).

Includes: correspondence with Esther C Anderson, K Emony and Herbert Gregory (Honolulu) and Haddon re publication of Canoes of Oceania, 1936, and Haddon's dispute with the Bernice P Bishop Museum re editing his manuscript.


Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reels M2628-M2629.

Series 10062. Post card/photograph album, 1925

1 item

Filmed selectively.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2629.

Photographs of St George Expedition to South Seas and press cuttings re return of ship, 18 September 1925 (File ff.[1-15])

Subjects include: the ship; JH digging at Gorgona; last cannibal at Bau, Fiji 2 July 1925; Family from Marquesas.

Series 10065. Diaries and Journals, 1917 - 1940

3 items

Filmed selectively.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reels M2629-M2630.

Journal: Benares, Diu, Jamnagar, Indonesia and New Guinea, 1917 - 1918 (File (A))

Two parts of this journal were selectively filmed:

(P. i-iv) includes: note on the collection of objects from Dutch New Guinea presented to the Museum, Cambridge; partial list of my collection from Indonesia and New Guinea; Index to Indonesian section

P. 126-[304] Daily journal of trip to Indonesia with sketches and drawings.

Places visited include: Penang, Sumatra, Boro Budur, Bali, Macassar, Amboina, Galela, Wooi Bay.

Subjects include: anthropological observations, boats, houses, art, fishing, birds of paradise, spears and arrows.

Indonesian Diary, 2nd. Part, 15 June 1918 - 18 July 1918 (File (B))

Places visited include: Ternate, Kawa, Menado, Tondano, Amoerang, Borneo, Macassar, Lombok, Bali, Sourabaya, Madura Is., Singapore, Penang.

Subjects include: photography, ethnological observations, fishing, rigging of canoes, agriculture, boats, museum at Singapore.

Letts Diary for 1924 (File (C))

Daily entries for voyage on St George from Madeira to Hiva-oa; details of voyage, ethnological observations etc.


Roneo Diary for 1925, 14 February 1925 - 17 September 1925 (File (D))

Part selectively filmed include:

January memorandum (details of expenditure). 14 Feb-17 Sept 1925. (220p) [1 Jan-13 Feb blank].

Daily entries for trip to Samoa, Vavau, Tonga, Fiji, Levuka, Noumea, Singapore, Suez, return to England; details of voyage, ethnological observations.

Journal, 1919, 1921, 1924 (File (E))

Journal of St George Expedition to South Seas; includes press cuttings, drawings, photographs.

Subjects include: ethnological observations on Isla del Rey; carvings on Gorgona Island and other archaic objects.

Pp. 2--25. 22 Feb-July 1924 selectively filmed.

Journal, 8 March 1923-25 April 1923, July 1924-7 February 1925 (File (F))

Journal of St George Expedition to South Seas; includes press cuttings; sketches and drawings; photographs.

Places include: Galapagos Islands, Cocos Islands, Marquesas.

Subjects include: boats; genealogies, sculptures.

pp. 50-end. July 1924-7 February 1925 selectively filmed. (110p.)

Journal, 8 February 1925 - 19 May 1925 (File (G))

Journal of expedition to South Seas; includes press cuttings, drawings, photographs, correspondence (some incomplete)

Places include: Napuka Island; Papeete; Huahine; Raiakea; Tokelau; Ellice Islands; Tonga; Suva.

Subjects include: canoes, fishing, Marist Brothers on Tonga, Tongan proverbs.

Correspondence includes: 15 May 1925. Andrew Thomson (Apia) to JH re proposed anthropological study of natives and string figures.


Notebook, 1 August 1924 - 8 February 1925 (File (H))

Rough notes on anthropological observations in South Seas; includes vocabularies and sketches of carved stones on Gorgona.

(Part in pencil, faint; book has been inverted and used from both ends.)


Journal for trip to Fiji, 15 July 1939 - 7 February 1940 (File)

Subjects include: Journey across Canada; Honolulu - visit to Bishop Museum and Honolulu aquarium; arrival at Suva, 17 Aug; visit to Government House; discussions on fisheries problems; trips to other islands and fishing villages; observations on nets and fishing methods; string figures; outbreak of war; hearing Chamberlain's speech at 11.15pm at dinner at Government House; fish superstitions; Janggona ceremony; 22 November journey on Monterey to Auckland, Sydney; visits to Australian Museum, Manly shark aquarium; impressions of Australia; voyage home on Esquiline, via Melbourne, Adelaide, (visits to Museum); other passengers on Esquiline, Aden, Suez, Naples. (7 February 1940).

(Loose material, 286p.)

All British Desk Diary, 1939 (File)

Daily entries for trip to Fiji to report on fisheries for Government; includes visits to Canada and Honolulu on outward voyage and New Zealand and Australia on homeward voyage and details of expenses.

15 July 1939 to the end of the volume were selectively filmed. (51p.)

Series 10066. Diaries and notebooks, 1918

1 item

Notebook. Monaco, Toulon, Paris 1918, Java etc.

Filmed selectively.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2630.

Notes on fishing boats and temples of Java with sketches, 1918 (File ff. 44-48)

Series 10071. Fishing in many waters

Annotated and amended typescript of Fishing in many waters

Although listed, this material was not filmed by the AJCP. (Published by Cambridge U.P., 1950).

Series 10072. Pacific canoes

Notes and observations on canoes of New Caledonia, New Zealand, Tuamotus, Paumotus, Tahiti, Tokelau, Ellice Islands, Gilbert Islands, Samoa, Niue, Tonga, New Hebrides, Solomon Islands, BNG, Nth. Queensland, Indonesia.


Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2630.

Series 10074. Indian ethnology

3 items

Filmed selectively.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2631.

Draft article: The bird motif in boat ornament in Indonesia and India. (6p.), n.d. (File (a))

Draft article: The Papuasian element in India. (10p.), n.d. (File (b))

Draft article: The Melanesian element in India. (6p.), n.d. (File (c))

Series 10077. Drawings of outrigger canoes

Drawings and photographs of outrigger canoes of Ellice Islands.


Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2631.

Series 10080. Correspondence and Diary material, 1924 - 1925

1 item

Filmed selectively.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2631.

Envelope: Hornell, 1924 - 1925 (File)

Comprises: notes; photographs and articles/ reports on St George Expedition. (113p.)

Series 10081. Manuscript from Burrows and Diary by Walker, 1883 - 1934

2 items

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M2631.

EG Burrows (Bernice P Bishop Museum) to JH enclosing typescript articles on canoes of Hoorn Islands and Wallis Island. (53p, pagination erratic), 2 July 1934 (File (a))

Copy of portion of journal and observations on natural history made in HMS Kingfisher by Commander JJ Walker (57p.), 11 February 1883 - 30 June 1883 (File (b))

HMS Kingfisher visited the Marquesas, Tahiti and Pitcairn Islands.