Part of a University Archives (25% buyer’s premium) auction on April 14 sale in Connecticut, the single-page, German text letter was a primarily humorous and self-deprecating one, addressed to members of the AE group, a sort of academic fan club.
In it he accepts the honour of being their ‘patron saint’ and in his turn provides them with a guiding motto. The letter reads in full: “The church demands of its saints that they be dead; for only in this way can it avoid [lit: be safe from] any unexpected surprises. You, however, have been bolder, and have chosen me – still more or less living – for your patron saint.
“May this whim bring you good fortune and may good humour and friendship reign in your ranks. May the grumbling and brow-furrowing of your patron saint not infect you, particularly when you are gathered together under his halo. If you need a motto, I suggest to you the following: Seek to understand everything, Despise no one, Believe nothing blindly. Greetings from your patron saint, A. Einstein.”
Genius at play
Once owned by the much younger Einstein, Perlen-Mosaik-Spiel, a game in which coloured wooden beads can be set into a perforated board to create pictures, bore a bullish estimate of $45,000-100,000.
That may have been inspired by the fact that a building block game owned by Einstein, and consigned by the same family descendant, had made £50,000 at Christie’s in London 2016.
In the event, the game in the US auction made $27,500 (£19,930).