Bloomsbury Auctions sells Einstein’s Views on God and Religion for a World Record £207,600

The bidding was frenetic at Bloomsbury Auctions’ 25th Anniversary sale in London for Albert Einstein’s handwritten letter to his friend, in which he discusses his thoughts about God and religion. The saleroom was packed to capacity with 11 extra telephone lines; at around £50,000 there was an imperceptible lull in the bidding, it immediately sped off once again finally selling to a private overseas collector for an astounding £207,600.

The highlight of Bloomsbury Auctions’ 25th Anniversary sale on 15th May 2008 was an unrecorded letter from Albert Einstein, in which the theoretical physicist wrote of his religious beliefs (lot 303). Rupert Powell, Bloomsbury’s Managing Director said, ‘The private buyer has a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails. This extraordinary letter seemed to strike a chord, and it gave a deep personal insight one of the greatest minds of the 20^th century. The final £207,600 has eclipsed previous records by at least four times.’

Handwritten in pen in 1954 to his friend the philosopher Eric Gutkind, Einstein writes, ‘The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.’ Einstein was Jewish but went to a Catholic primary school, receiving private tuition in Judaism at home. He declined the offer from the newly formed state of Israel to be its second president. In Bloomsbury’s letter, which was written in German the year before his death, Einstein wrote, ‘For me the Jewish religion like all others is the incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity, have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.’ Although Einstein emphatically rejected conventional religion, he was affronted when his views were appropriated by atheists, whose lack of humility he found offensive.

‘We’re especially delighted with the sale as not only have we broken another world record, but we have made a staggering £1.3 million in our 25th Anniversary sale,’ said Powell. Today Bloomsbury Auctions, which has branches in Rome and New York, sells more books and works on paper than any other auction house in the world.

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