Albert Einstein’s famous letter detailing his inner-most thoughts on the subject of God, his Jewish faith and “man’s eternal search for meaning” has sold at auction for a record-breaking amount — $2.89 million.
The exact price was $2,892,500 and was sold to an unknown buyer. The letter, which was auctioned off by Christie’s on Tuesday, was expected to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.
“This remarkably candid, private letter was written a year before Einstein’s death and remains the most fully articulated expression of his religious and philosophical views,” Christie’s said in a statement on its website.
In the letter, Einstein says that for him, the word God is “nothing but the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of venerable but still primitive legends.”
Einstein goes on to write: “No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change anything about this. These refined interpretations are naturally very diverse, and have virtually nothing to do with the original text. For me the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
The letter is dated January 3, 1954, approximately a year before Einstein passed away at age 76. It is addressed to German philosopher Eric Gutkind and is written in his native German.
Separately, Christie’s also sold a rare signed first edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which also set a record, for $162,500. Additionally, a copy of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” was also sold at auction and fetched $162,500, Christie’s said.
Last month, Sotheby’s offered up for auction a Bible inscribed by Einstein in 1932, but failed to sell. The leatherette-bound Bible, which was a gift from Einstein and his wife, Elsa, to an employee of the couple, Harriet Hamilton, was inscribed with: “This book is an inexhaustible source of living wisdom and consolation.” It was estimated that it would sell for between $200,000 and $300,000.
Several of Einstein’s letters have sold at auction in recent memory, ranging in size and scope.
In June, two letters written by the world-renowned scientist went up for auction, which detailed his escape from the Nazis and his work helping Jews escape Hitler’s regime. Both letters were written to his sister, Maja Winteler-Einstein. The first was written on March 28, 1933, aboard the S.S. Belgenland on the day he renounced his German citizenship.
The second was written on Dec. 14, 1938, attempting to persuade Maja to leave Switzerland and come to the U.S. as he attempted to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazi regime.
In October 2017, Einstein’s note on the theory of happiness sold to an unknown buyer at a Jerusalem auction for $1.56 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia