Early "albino", 1781

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 11 17:41:06 UTC 2009

The OED has "albino" from 1777, then 1808 and 1819.  The term is used
by Jefferson, _Notes on the State of Virginia_.  The notes were
written in 1781, and first published I think in 1782.  Probably a
well-known passage, but not in the OED and more useful than the 1777
quotation, which is undescriptive ("The former are called Albinos by
the Portuguese.")

The following is from an edition (1853) that is available Google full
text.  I have not checked the 1782 edition (but could if requested by
some authority).

In:  Thomas Jefferson, _Notes on the State of Virginia_ (Richmond,
VA: J. W. Randolph, 1853).

To this catalogue of our indigenous animals, I will add a short
account of an anomaly of Nature, taking place sometimes in the race
of negroes brought from Africa, who, though black themselves, have,
in rare instances, white children, called Albinos. ... They are of a
pallid cadaverous white, untinged with read, without any colored
spots or seams; their hair of the same kind of white, short, coarse,
and curled as is that of the negro; all of them well formed, strong,
healthy, perfect in their senses, except that of sight, and born of
parents who had no mixture of white blood.

[Jefferson (p. 79) goes on to describe what is probably a case of
vitiligo:  "a negro man ... born black, and of black parents; on
whose chin, when a boy, a white spot appeared. This continued to
increase till he became a man, by which time it had extended over his
chin, lips, one cheek, the under jaw and neck on that side. It is of
the Albino white, without any mixture of red ..."]


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