The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume I, The Early Years: 1879-1902, edited by John Stachel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 433 pp. $52.50 cloth; English translation. 196 pp. $22.50 paperback. John Stachel and the Princeton University Press have undertaken a great task. They are collecting, ordering, and publishing the papers, notes, and letters of Albert Einstein. The first installment, ``The Early Years: 1879-1902'' of ``The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein'' is now available. The main text, called the document text, is a collection of the original documents with prefaces and footnotes. A companion volume gives an English translation by Anna Beck and Peter Havas for scholars not comfortable with German. The document text begins with a short introduction that tells the scholar and browser what is presented and how the footnotes and annotation are done. This is followed by an excerpt of a biography of Albert Einstein by his sister, which helps set the stage for the documents that follow. The documents range from his birth certificate and notes from physics lectures to letters to his girlfriend.
For scholars, the documents will be useful in detailing Einstein's life and development, gaining insight into his thinking about a variety of subjects - but mostly physics - and tracing the inception and development of relativity and his investigations into the photoelectric effect. Volume I holds some previously unpublished letters and notes from Einstein as a young man intent on understanding physics, in love with a girl (Mileva Maric), and facing all the frustrations, trials, and perplexities of Europe at the turn of the century. Einstein and his future wife were both studying physics, and their letters are a mixture of personal details, snatches of physics, and affection. Here are excerpts from the translation of one, ``Dear Miezchen!