Einstein-Besso "theory of relativity" manuscript fetches $13 million
A 54-page document handwritten in 1913-1914 by Albert Einstein and Swiss engineer Michele Besso, sold in Paris earlier today for €11.6 million (US$13.0 million). It’s not the most valuable document ever written by Einstein by any measure, but it is the most paid in nearly eight decades for an autograph document by history’s most celebrated scientist.
Time magazine's "Person of the Century" famously threw away each outdated draft of his work, even destroying the original hand-written manuscript of his theory of relativity when the paper was published in 1905. By the time World War II got underway, Einstein had migrated to the United States because he objected to the policies of Germany’s Nazi Government.
So opposed was Einstein to the Nazis that he made another hand-written copy of his original theory of relativity manuscript in 1943 to raise money for the United States’ war effort and it was sold at auction for $6.5 million in 1944, making it the most valuable document ever sold at auction at that time. That manuscript now resides in the US Library of Congress and would dwarf today’s $13 million in real value terms.
Regardless, the Einstein-Besso manuscript is a miracle in that it was preserved thanks to Einstein’s friend and collaborator on the theory of relativity, Michele Besso. Christie's as always has done a remarkable job in documenting and highlighting the importance of this manuscript to the world.