University Archives


Albert to Mama: Only Einstein Letter that We've Seen to Her, Regarding a Trip to the Swiss Alps

An autograph note signed by German physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) on a picture postcard of the Swiss Alps, signed by him as "Albert" on the front, and inscribed with approximately 23 words in his hand. The undated postcard depicting a photographic image of the Märcherstöckli crag was postmarked from Urnerboden, Switzerland on July 27, 1901. Bearing a Swiss stamp and three philatelic handstamps. Expected wear including gentle wrinkles, light overall toning, and weathering. Else near fine. 3.5" x 5.5." Accompanied by a partial English translation.

Einstein addressed this humorous postcard about hiking in the Alps to his mother Pauline Einstein née Koch (1858-1920) near Mettmenstetten, Switzerland. Einstein writes a joking remark about the weather: "Grant me by the Father's blessing Much hail, fog and rain." And in the same jocular spirit, he assigns names to various formations on the mountain, reading in part (from left to right): “Angel Gabriel,” “Devil,” “Mother."

Urnerboden, believed to be the largest alp in Switzerland, features a geological marvel known as the Märcherstöckli crag. This pinnacle with an overall elevation of 7,815-ft was called a "curious rock hump" in a 1905 English-language travel guide of Switzerland. The crag serves as a boundary to a mountain pass. Einstein likely visited this place on vacation between two teaching gigs.

Switzerland was a familiar place for the German expatriate; Einstein had attended school there from 1896. In February 1901, just five months before this Alps vacation, Einstein had finally been granted his Swiss citizenship. In March, Einstein had published his first scientific work, "Folgerungen aus den Kapillaritätserscheinungen" or, "Conclusions Drawn from the Phenomena of Capillarity" in the German scientific journal "Annalen der Physik." During the spring and fall of that year, Einstein taught at Winterthur and Schaffhausen, both in Switzerland.

This early autograph can be considered an Einstein "incunable," that is, any autograph preceding 1905, Einstein's so-called "Annus Mirabilis." That was the year when Einstein's publication of numerous and significant scientific works guaranteed his future celebrity.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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