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Rare Einstein letters sell for $13 million in auction

i24NEWS

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A picture taken on November 22, 2021 shows pages of one of the preparatory manuscript to the theory of general relativity of Albert Einstein, at a Christie's auction in Paris, France.
Alain JOCARD / AFPA picture taken on November 22, 2021 shows pages of one of the preparatory manuscript to the theory of general relativity of Albert Einstein, at a Christie's auction in Paris, France.

Letters between Einstein and friend Michele Besso date back to 1913, before publication of general relativity

Letters written by Albert Einstein fetched 11.7 million Euros ($13 million) at an auction in Paris, France, on Tuesday.

The initial bid, set at 1.5 million euros, quickly rose, with only two bidders remaining in the running after several minutes. The bidding was held remotely, and the name of the winner was withheld.

The historic letters between Einstein and Swiss engineer Michele Besso, his friend and colleague, detail his work leading up to his most famous achievement - the theory of relativity, which was published in 1915.

The fact that the letters were written in 1913 and 1914 “makes it particularly important given that working documents by Einstein before 1919 are extremely rare,” said Christie’s expert Vincent Belloy.

Some half of the papers are written by the famed German physicist, with the pair trying to contend with an anomaly in the planet Mercury’s orbit.

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The initial estimate by Christie’s said that the documents were worth $2.2 to $3.4 million, which would still be a record for handwritten Einstein papers.

A previous record for Einstein documents was set at $2.8 million in 2018.

“Einstein makes errors in this manuscript, and that I think makes it even greater in a way, because we see the persistence, the thought that was in the process of being built, that is being corrected and redirected,” Belloy said.

Einstein abandoned the papers after noticing the mistakes, and Besso kept them. Today, this is considered one of two surviving manuscripts "documenting the genesis of the theory of general relativity that we know about," Christie's said.

This comes on the heels of another document written by Einstein that sold Sunday at an auction in the US, which described anti-Semitism in American academia.