NEW YORK — Bonhams will offer a Bible inscribed and signed by Albert Einstein in which
he refers to the book as a source of “inexhaustible wisdom” (estimate $1,500-$2,500). Featured in the June 25 Fine Books & Manuscripts auction at the Madison Avenue salesroom, the Bible was also signed by Einstein’s wife, Elsa, in 1932, as a gift to their American friend, Harriet Hamilton.
The inscription, in which Einstein advises that the Bible is a source of wisdom and consolation that deserves frequent reading, is written in German on the book’s front free endpaper. The comforting, humanist sentiment is rather a surprise: while he resisted being labeled an atheist during his lifetime, Einstein is better known for other views. In a letter to the philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954, he referred to the Bible as a collection of primitive legends – an opinion likely shaped by the horrors of the Holocaust.
“Any opinion expressed by Einstein on the Bible is of intense interest,” explained Christina Geiger, director of the Fine Books & Manuscripts Department at Bonhams New York. “Although it is well-known that Einstein went through a devout phase as a young child, he never subscribed to organized religion as an adult. This Bible offers a fascinating window to his sentiments in the early 1930s.”
A pop-culture highlight on offer is a first edition of JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” ($12,000-$18,000). It is one of the original print run of 1,500 copies published in September 1937. By December of that year, “The Hobbit” had completely sold out.
Tolkien’s publishers prompted him to write more books set in Middle Earth as a result, laying the groundwork for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts auction will take place June 25 in New York. For more information, contact Bonhams at 212-644-9001 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.bonhams.com.