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Einstein’s God Letter

December 4, 2018

“The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of venerable but still primitive legends.”   Albert Einstein


Einstein’s God Letter

A handwritten letter by Albert Einstein, known as the God Letter, was promoted as a stand-alone auction at Christie’s today, although the sale that immediately followed, Fine Books and Manuscripts, started at lot 2.

The letter, penned in German by Einstein (1954) to German philosopher Eric Gutkind, was a response to Gutkind’s book “Choose Life: A Biblical Call to Revolt (1952).”   The book, inspired by Jewish traditions used the Bible as a call to arms and apparently did not sit well with Einstein.  Granted, Einstein did identify as Jewish but did not believe in God and this letter is an honest expression of his religious, or lack thereof, beliefs.

Back in 2008, the letter (presumably offered by Gutkind’s relatives) sold for £170K (£208K/$404K with the commission – w/c) at Bloomsbury Auctions, Mayfair, on an estimate of  £6-8K.  In 2012, it appeared on eBay with a price of $3M … someone thought they would find a sucker on eBay!  I guess there were no suckers since, according to the Christie’s catalog, the current seller was the same person who bought it in 2008.

This time around, it carried an estimate of $1-1.5M and when the auction started, I had my doubts it would sell since the auctioneer struggled to get the first bid of $1M … then the action stalled again (it seemed that the result would be anti-climactic given all the press).  But thankfully for the seller, a second bidder chimed in and the letter hammered at $2.4 M ($2.9M w/c).  Not bad, I just really thought it would go for a lot more.