King Solomon wrote about wisdom in Proverbs 3:17, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is every one that holdest her fast.” Tradition applies this verse to the bible itself. It seems that another wise man felt similarly.
Although not a religiously observant Jew, renowned physicist Albert Einstein and his wife, Elsa, inscribed a bible in 1932 and gifted it to a friend, Harriett Hamilton. That bible has now been sold at auction for $68,500 to an undisclosed buyer. The bible, inscribed in German with the sentiment that it “is a great source of wisdom and consolation and should be read frequently,” was sold on June 25 by Bonhams auction house in New York.
Einstein’s religious beliefs have long held public interest. The child of non-practicing Jewish parents, young Einstein went through a brief period of devout religiosity, which ended by age 12. He once wrote, “Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true.” Yet he avoided being identified as an atheist, preferring to be called agnostic. In his own words, he maintained an “attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.” The bible, and its inscription, are, therefore, a fascinating find.
Pre-auction estimates anticipated the bible fetching merely $1,500-$2,500. Intense international interest drove up the price after lengthy bidding. Bidders participated in person, by telephone and online.
Christina Geiger, the Director of the Fine Books & Manuscripts Department at Bonhams New York, said, “We are very pleased with the price realized for the Einstein Bible in the auction. Einstein didn’t identify with organized religion as an adult, so the inscription is an extraordinary insight into his sentiments in the early 1930s.”