A rare manuscript with equations that helped lead Albert Einstein to his famous general theory of relativity is up for auction in Paris.
Renowned auction house Christie’s is selling the 54-page document known as the Einstein-Besso Manuscript on Tuesday. It was written between June 1913 and early 1914 by Einstein and his colleague and longtime friend, Swiss-Italian engineer Michele Besso.
The manuscript is the “only surviving work detailing the genesis of general relativity,” other than a manuscript at the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, according to the Christie’s website. It features 26 pages in Einstein’s handwriting, 25 in Besso’s and three with both of their writing.
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The document “attempts to explain an anomaly in Mercury’s orbit using versions of the equations Einstein would use to prove his theory of general relativity,” according to the website. Both Einstein and Besso “made a couple of mistakes in the manuscript,” which Einstein would later correct independently.
And the price tag for the document, even with a few errors? It is estimated to be worth between approximately $2.4 million and $3.5 million.
Einstein himself did not typically save early drafts of his work, but the document was kept in Besso’s home until his death in 1955.
“The manuscript isn’t bound, and there are many different types of loose paper, so you get the impression of a working document that’s full of energy, as if both men would grab the first page they could find to scribble their findings on,’” Vincent Belloy, specialist in the Books & Manuscripts department at Christie’s Paris, said in a statement.
“What’s interesting is the sense of personality that comes across in these pages,” he added. “You get the impression that Einstein was perhaps more confident in his calculations since his sheets are much lighter in terms of textual content and reserved almost exclusively for calculations. Besso, by contrast, often added written notes in the margin.”
Einstein won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921. He died in 1955 in New Jersey.