Einstein’s handwritten draft with one of his first versions of the theory of general relativity up for auction

Albert Einstein photo

It is a 54-page document written in 1913 and 1914, in Zurich, by the famous German physicist and his collaborator and confidant, Michele Besso. They estimate a value of between two and three million euros.

One of the handwritten drafts of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, valued at between two and three million euros, will be auctioned, Christie’s announced on Wednesday.

“This is without a doubt the most precious Einstein manuscript ever put up for auction,” Christie’s said in a statement.

The sale will take place on November 23.

The document is a 54-page manuscript drawn up in 1913 and 1914, in Zurich, Switzerland, by the famous German physicist and his collaborator and confidant, Michele Besso.

It is thanks to this Swiss engineer, Christie’s explained, that “the manuscript has almost miraculously reached us: Albert Einstein probably would not have bothered to preserve what might appear to him as a working document.”

After his theory of special relativity, which led him to demonstrate the formula “E = mc²” in 1905, Einstein began to work, in 1912, on a theory of general relativity.

At the beginning of 1913, “both friends and colleagues began to work on one of the problems with which the scientific community has been clashing for decades: the anomaly of the orbit of the planet Mercury,” Christie’s recalled. Both scientists solved that riddle.

But they did not do so in the calculations for that manuscript, which include “various errors that went unnoticed.” When Einstein spotted them, he stopped worrying about the manuscript, which was left in the hands of Michele Besso.

“Einstein’s scientific handwritten documents from that period, and more generally, from before 1919, are extremely rare,” said Adrien Legendre, director of Christie’s Rare Books and Manuscripts section, quoted in the statement.

The other known document from that crucial period in physicist research, called the “Zurich Notebook” (late 1912, early 1913) is in the Einstein archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.