Christie’s in Paris: sells a rare manuscript featuring early calculations that led to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
The emergence of the scientific revolution is often dated to the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543 after which human understanding about the universe and the world began to be explained in scientific terms, creating a mostly blank canvas upon which emerging scientific disciplines would make their cases for relevance in the ever clarifying general understanding.
In time, we began to understand the concepts of earth, sun and the stars, but much of our understanding about the universe and the scientific principles upon which the cosmos held together remained to be explained much less proven. In the early 20th century Albert Einstein developed his general theory of relativity, sharing his thinking with Michele Besso in 1915, who kept Einstein’s calculations and formulations, capturing his logic and methodology.
Those work papers were recently offered at Christies in Paris and were sold this past week for $13+ million dollars, four times its pre-sale estimate.
Important documents appear in dealer and auction catalogues with stunning regularity but very few are the work products of the handful of geniuses who have provided the essential concepts that have become the bedrock of our understanding of our world.
Jeremy Norman, these days a renowned dealer in the sciences, recently mentioned that he catalogued this same manuscript for the Harvey Plotnick Library Sale for Christies, New York in 2002, and remembers it bringing $559,500. And now seeing it back in the rooms bringing $13.4 million, he reflects on what that could mean,
“The next generation of ambitious collectors may be entering the Einstein, if not the general sciences, market. And taken together with RR Auction’s sale this past May of a relatively late (1946) Einstein letter mentioning E=mc2 for $1.24 million, collectors could see these two outcomes as confirming what is now looking like a trend.”
In Paris, Christie’s got it done.