Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Manuscripts Fetch High Prices On Auction Block

We learned it in school: E=MC2, Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Now, an original working manuscript of that theory will go on the auction block at Sotheby's in New York Dec.11.

About these ads

The 72-page document is expected to fetch between $4 million and $6 million.

Only three papers Einstein wrote on the theory are known to have survived. This the earliest and the longest - and the only one that has never been published. Complete with revisions, corrections, and crossings out, it serves as a window into the thinking of one of the world's greatest scientists.

"The manuscript has not only scientific and historical significance, but great symbolic significance," says David Redden, senior vice president in charge of Sotheby's Books and Manuscripts department. "It's a symbol of the great scientific leap in the 20th century." Libraries and private collectors will be the most likely bidders, he adds.

Scholars conclude that the manuscript was written in 1912 for publication in the fifth volume of the "Handbuch der Radiologie" to be published by Erich Marx in Leipzig. But World War I interfered with publication.

Einstein was notorious for throwing out manuscripts of his published writings; this one survived because it never made it to publication, scholars say.

The manuscript first surfaced in 1987 when it sold for $1.2 million at Sotheby's - a record at that time for any manuscript sold in the United States.

"There has been considerable recognition in the value of these kinds of documents," Mr. Redden says. "They are icons for our culture."

About these ads

Meanwhile, the German manuscript of one of the century's most famous antiwar novels, "All Quiet on the Western Front," undiscovered for decades, will be auctioned on Dec.1 at Sotheby's, London. The hand-written manuscript of Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 novel, which has sold 50 million copies in more than 40 languages, is expected to fetch up to $550,000.

Other recent significant sales include a Mozart manuscript that sold for more than $4 million in 1987, a manuscript of Kafka's "The Trial" that sold for more than $2 million in 1990, an unsigned loose leaf from Lincoln's "House Divided" speech that went for $1,650,000 in 1992, and Leonardo da Vinci's Codex, which sold to computer software magnate Bill Gates for $30.8 million.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.