“It was an all-time record for an auction of a document in Israel,” said Winner’s spokesman Meni Chadad, adding that the buyer was a European who wished to remain anonymous.
The note, on Imperial Hotel Tokyo stationery, says in German that “a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest”.
Bidding in person, online and by phone started at $2,000. A flurry of offers pushed the price rapidly up for about 20 minutes until the final two potential buyers bid against each other by phone.
Applause broke out in the room when the sale was announced.
“I am really happy that there are people out there who are still interested in science and history and timeless deliveries in a world which is developing so fast,” the seller said on condition of anonymity after the sale.
A second Einstein note written at the same time that simply reads “where there’s a will, there’s a way” sold for $240,000, Winner’s said.
The German-born physicist, most famous for his theory of relativity, was on a lecture tour in Japan when he wrote the autographed notes, previously unknown to researchers, in 1922. He had recently been informed that he was to receive the Nobel prize for physics, and his fame outside scientific circles was growing.
A Japanese courier arrived at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo to deliver Einstein a message. The courier either refused to accept a tip, in line with local practice, or Einstein had no small change available.
Either way, Einstein didn’t want the messenger to leave empty-handed, so he wrote him two notes by hand in German, according to the seller, a relative of the messenger.
“Maybe if you’re lucky those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip,” Einstein told the messenger, according to the seller, a resident of the German city of Hamburg.
Two other letters Einstein wrote in later years were also auctioned on Tuesday, fetching prices of $33,600 and $9,600.
In June, letters written by Einstein about God, Israel and physics sold for nearly $210,000 at a Jerusalem auction.
Einstein served as a non-resident governor of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. When he died in 1955, he left the institution his archives, making it the owner of the world’s most extensive collection of his documents.
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