Lyrics of a genius: rare handwritten poetry by Albert Einstein sells tomorrow

Tomorrow, Wednesday November 24, Bloomsbury Auctions is holding a sale in London titled Important Books and Manuscripts, and a skim through the 259 lots on offer doesn't disappoint, with science, literature and travel history all well-represented.

A first edition of Jane Austen's most famous work Pride and Prejudice is always a strong lot for collectors. The work in three volumes has been re-bound in contemporary style with marbled quarter black calf-skin. The set is expected to fetch £20,000-£25,000 (up to $40,000).

Cartography collectors will be particularly excited to see Francois Valentijn's Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien (Old and New East Indies) which was described by celebrated expert Landwehr as 'The most comprehensive work on Asia published in Europe during the early colonial period'.

The first edition of the five volume work has an engraved frontispiece and 266 plates and maps only (of an original 268), including the famous Tabulae Insulae Orientalis. The 1724-26 Dutch work is expected to sell for around £15,000-20,000.

The scientific world is best served however with a first edition of the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages,of HMS Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836 (in four volumes), which includes Darwin's writings from before the Origin of the Species.

A nice set of the volumes which contain four folding maps, it is expected to sell for £15,000-£20,000.

For more abstract concerns than the biological, the is a first edition of Galileo's Dialogo sopre i due massimi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano which popularised the heliocentric view of the universe.  It is listed at £10,000-15,000 (up to $24,000).

Early map of the East Indies
Early map of the East Indies

Most remarkable however is probably a set of three documents related to Albert Einstein, owned by Dr. Erdita Fried, a noted psychologist and like Einstein an émigré to America.

These documents are: Firstly, a facsimile of first half of Einstein's famous letter to President Roosevelt about the possibility of developing an atomic bomb in 1939, browned and slightly stained, signed by Einstein.

Seconldy, a large photograph of Einstein, taken in 1940, inscribed to "Frau Fried" with two other words, signed by Einstein, and thirdly an autograph poem signed, in German, to Fried, thanking her for her help in a difficult task, signed and dated 1941.

Autograph poetry by Einstein is exceedingly rare. The poem reads in translation:
"If a thing is horribly urgent
This will cause one torment
Unless one is fast assisted
And thus can give it birth.
You have helped me, though late it was and night,
Quickly and with brightness.
You have done it masterfully,
Thank you, noble Maiden."

The set is listed at £30,000-£40,000. Frankly, we think that this is an underestimate, and investors would be well advised to buy if the items are available for anything similar to that, given Einstein's iconic status. Alternatively, an apologetic letter signed by the great physicist and a rather sharper reply to an aspiring scientist are available.


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