The Elisha Bartlett Papers consist of the correspondence, writings, and notes documenting Bartlett's medical education, his travels in Europe, and the study and teaching of medicine during the first half of the 19th century. Also included are letters to Harvey Cushing concerning the Bartlett papers.
The correspondence (folders 1 – 14), which is arranged chronologically, begins in 1826 as Bartlett prepares to depart for Europe in order to attend medical lectures in Paris. Bartlett wrote long, detailed letters to his family (folders 1 – 2) describing his impressions of Paris, his domestic arrangements, and his visits to museums, churches, and celebrations. He gives fewer details of his medical studies, teachers, and visits to state-supported medical institutions. He also sent his father a lengthy description of the production of sugar from beets. While not attending lectures Bartlett visited Italy and London, and the letters also contain details of these excursions. In folders 9 and 10 there are additional travel letters, addressed "to my friends at home" giving very detailed descriptions of another visit to England and the continent, 1845-46.
The rest of the correspondence is composed of letters received by Bartlett from friends and colleagues. Some of these items relate to appointments and affairs at Transylvania University and the University of Louisville. Several letters written in 1842 congratulate Bartlett on the publication of Fevers in the United States. Succeeding letters often contain requests for information on the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, including black tongue, typhoid, and ship fever. A few letters in 1848 concern the safety of drinking water conducted through lead pipes, and folder 13 contains a discussion of color blindness.
Folders 15 – 17 contain Bartlett's notes on medical lectures he attended in the United States and in France. Included are bound volumes of notes of James Jackson's lectures on the theory and practice of physick and Jacob Bigelow's lectures on materia medica. Bartlett's writings in folders 18 – 19 include poems, essays, drafts for unidentified medical works, and a printed copy of Bartlett's defense of the employment of women in Lowell's textile mills.
Folder 21 contains letters to Harvey Cushing, who collected the Bartlett papers and donated them to the Yale University Historical Medical Library. The papers were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives in 1980.