Josiah Clark Nott letters and note, 1839, 1855, and undated

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Collection is open for research.
More about accessing and using these materials...


Nott, Josiah C. (Josiah Clark), 1804-1873
Josiah Clark Nott was a surgeon, ethnologist, and enslaver with a medical practice in Mobile, Alabama. Collection consists of two letters and one note, written by Nott from Mobile. The 1839 letter speaks of payment for services and financial difficulties; the 1855 letter comments favorably on a work by Arthur de Gobineau on the theory of racial differences, published in French in the U.S. in 1855, which upheld the superiority of the "Aryan race" and thus promoted slavery as a just and moral system. Nott mentions in the 1855 letter that he had hired a "young friend" to help with the translation of Gobineau's work into English, which was published in 1856 in a much shortened and edited form. The undated note asks about the suitability of evening attire. Acquired as part of the Trent Collection, History of Medicine Collections at Duke University.
3 items (1 folder)
Materials in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection contains two letters and a note written by physician and ethnologist Josiah Clark Nott. The first letter was written from Alabama on October 13, 1839 to a George Poe, Jr. in Summerville; in it, Nott comments on payment for services and asks for a financial favor, reporting that his office has been "burnt out." The second letter, October 11, 1855, reports favorably on a book by Arthur de Gobineau on the inequalities between races (published by Lippincott in 1855), a work that advanced the notion of the superiority of the Aryan race and thus claimed that slavery was a moral and just system. Nott comments that he has hired a "young friend of mine" to translate the French work into English (it was published in 1856), and that it is a "bold, original, and altother a thinking book." The undated note inquires about appropriate attire for an evening engagement.

The two letters were removed from a book by Josia Clark Nott and George R. Gliddon: Types of Mankind; or, Ethnological Researches, Based upon the Ancient Monuments, Paintings, Sculptures, and Crania of Races, and upon Their Natural, Geographical, Philological, and Biblical History... (Philadelphia, Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1854. This book has been cataloged separately as part of the holdings of the Rubenstein Library's History of Medicine Collection, Duke University Libraries.

Biographical / historical:

Josiah Clark Nott (1804-1873), born in South Carolina, was a surgeon, ethnologist, and specialist in infectious disease vectors; his first practice was established in Mobile, Alabama in 1833. He was an enslaver and was a well-known instigator of racist theories of white supremacy; together with Henry Hotze, he translated Arthur de Gobineau's book, "An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races," from French into English.

Acquisition information:
Transfer, 2011, and purchase, 2020-0020.
Processing information:

Processed by: Rubenstein Staff

Finding aid derived from MARC record using DukeMARC2EAD-HOMproject.xsl, December 2014

Addition of two letters processed and described by Paula Jeannet, February 2021.

Accession(s) described in this collection guide: 2020-0020.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
General note:

Forms part of the Trent Manuscripts Collection.


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Slaveholders -- Alabama
White supremacy movements -- United States -- History -- 19th century
Physicians -- Alabama -- Correspondence
Trent History of Medicine Manuscript Collection (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
Gobineau, Arthur, comte de, 1816-1882
Mobile (Ala.)


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

Preferred Citation: [Title of item], Josiah Clark Nott letters and note, Trent Manuscripts Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University