From the Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem auction house that sold a note written by Albert Einstein for $1,560,000 on Tuesday night said it was flabbergasted by the winning bid. “We were in total shock, we didn’t believe it was happening,” said Avi Blumenthal, a spokesman for Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions. “It’s the highest price ever for an item sold at auction in Israel.”
The note, written shortly after Einstein learned he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, says simply: “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
According to the auction house, located in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem, the letter was written by Einstein in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in October 1922. When a messenger delivered something to his room, the scientist found himself short of a tip. Instead he gave the bellboy two notes and “told the messenger to keep them, as their future value may be much higher than a standard tip,” said the auction house.
Blumenthal told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday morning that the letters came to them directly from the great-nephew of the bellboy who delivered the message to Einstein.
He held on to the letter for many years, and a few months ago we held an auction of letters Einstein wrote to Prof. David Bohm, on mathematics, and they were sold at a nice price,” Blumenthal said. In that auction, the letter that fetched the highest price went for $84,000.
“It was publicized in a newspaper in Germany where he [the great-nephew] lives, and he saw this and said, ‘Okay, if they get good prices on Einstein, I’ll turn to them.’”
Bidding on the item started at $2,000 and the auction house estimated it would go for $5,000-$8,000; the final price was close to 200 times that amount. While Winner’s didn’t dream of the final sum the letter garnered, it did have an idea that this auction would attract greater interest than some of its others.
“In the weeks leading up to the auction,” Blumenthal said, “we saw people joining the website from Lebanon, from Jordan, from places that were a little unusual.”
The other note Einstein gave to the bellboy sold for $240,000.
That note said simply, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Both letters were written in German. Two other letters by Einstein in the auction sold for $33,600 and $9,600.
The auction included many items of Judaica, Holocaust memorabilia and holy books.
The handwritten notes of the Chatam Sofer on a tractate of Talmud, dated to 1914, sold for $26,400.
Blumenthal said about 30 people showed up in person to the auction house in Jerusalem, and most of the bidding took place online, as is common in auctions today. The purchaser of the letter has chosen to remain anonymous, but Blumenthal said the buyer is based in Europe.
“It just goes to show you,” said Blumenthal, “that many people own items at home and they couldn’t possibly dream of the value those items could have.”
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Friday, October 27, 2017
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
The BBC news reports a fascinating find.
The legendary marine archaeologist, David Mearns of Blue Water recovery, salvaged an artifact from Vasco da Gama's ship Esmeralda that looked like a navigational instrument.
It has now been confirmed that it is, indeed, a fifteenth century astrolabe, used to determine the altitude of the sun.
As the BBC reports --
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Friday, October 20, 2017
In contrast to its stance against wholesale google digitization of books, the Authors Guild approves of a new venture for making old books available to readers, historians, and researchers.
As the newsletter announces, "The Internet Archive has announced a promising initiative aimed at giving new, online life to 75-plus-year-old books. Although the Internet Archive has sometimes been cavalier about copyright and dismissive of the needs of authors, we are happy about this project, which aims to make 10,000 or more out-of-print books published between 1923 and 1941 available to researchers, historians, and readers. Helping libraries as well as authors take advantage of new digital opportunities is an Authors Guild priority.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
What, in Washington, DC, does the word "adult" mean? And how has that meaning changed with the continuing chaos of the Trump administration? The New York Review of Books has an interesting discussion, written by James Mann.
As he points out --- "For the first time, America has a president who does not act like an adult. He is emotionally immature: he lies, taunts, insults, bullies, rages, seeks vengeance, exalts violence, boasts, refuses to accept criticism, all in ways that most parents would seek to prevent in their own children. Thus the dynamic was established in the earliest days of the administration: Trump makes messes, or threatens to make them, and Americans look to the “adults” to clean up for him. The “adults,” in turn, send out occasional little public signals that they are trying to keep Trump from veering off course—to educate him, to make him grow up, to keep him under control. When all else fails, they simply distance themselves from his tirades. Sometimes such efforts are successful; on many occasions, they aren’t."
And so the meaning of the word "adult" has changed. Originally, it meant a person who adhered to certain policy approaches -- usually centrist and not too far to the left. Thus, Bernie Sanders would never be called an "adult" in Washington parlance, though I suspect no one would quite dare to suggest that he needed adult supervision. Ralph Nader is another.
Now, however, the word refers to behavior. It harks back to irritated parents, who ask a wayward teenager to "please act like an adult." This is exactly the interaction between Trump and the "adults" in the room -- he makes messes, and they are expected to step in and clean it up. When the messes involve grave matters like endangerment of world peace, or crucially important trade pacts, the public looks anxiously for one of the perceived adults to step in and save the precarious situation.
So it is doubly interesting that three of the perceived adults are military men. What does this mean for the future of the world? Read the thought-provoking article for more.
Quite apart from politics, though, it is a fascinating footnote to the history of how words evolve. Think of the maritime word "fathom," for instance. From the earliest days at sea, it was about six feet, or the length of a man's arms outstretched. On land, to "fathom" was to encircle with one's arms. Back at sea again, it became a useful way of measuring depth, which is probably why it then evolved to its modern meaning, to understand, or puzzle out -- as in, "I can't fathom what he is talking about."
Which is exactly what the "adults" are doing much of their time in Washington.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Cows interested spectators at an emergency landing
The Dominion Post has an amusing report this morning that I could not resist passing on.
Cattle are surprisingly inquisitive, as I have found out many times when going out mushrooming. They gather round and drool, and flutter ridiculously long eyelashes, and when they get really interested they start to lick.
This herd of beef cattle had the most interesting experience yet, on Sunday. A small plane, flown by a private pilot, made an emergency landing in their paddock after the engine started shuddering.
No one was hurt, and the plane was washed. After a fashion. The cows, after scampering away from the landing, reassembled for a close inspection. Then, liking what they scented and saw, they started to lick.
This happened just north of Wellington, at Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast. The Kapiti Aero Club secretary denied all knowledge of the pilot's identity. All he knew, apparently was that the pilot issued a mayday call, and then made a successful landing, and the plane will be trucked out this week.
More amusing still, it seems that cows are even more interested in cameras. As you can see, they have abandoned the plane to inspect the photographer.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Well, there's a language I have never heard about before. Luwian. Evidently a local dialect from about the time of beautiful Helen of Troy, whose face sank a thousand ships.
Long ago, a French archaeologist couldn't decipher it, either, but he had the sense to copy what he saw on a huge tablet covered with this script, before the stone tablet was used in the construction of a mosque. And now a team of scholars has translated the message, which is a story of a mythic "Sea People."
From The Smithsonian
An interdisciplinary team of Swiss and Dutch archaeologists
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
An old, unused, ship stamp could be yours for a mere fifty grand in Kiwi dollars, if you link to a stamp and coin auction that is to be staged in Wellington late this week.
The stamp was designed and printed to commemorate a royal visit to the country back in 1949
Due to the ill-health of the royal in question, King George VI, the visit was cancelled, and so was the stamp.
Well, it was meant to be cancelled and destroyed in its entirety, but one sheet of the print run was "liberated" before the rest were incinerated.
There are only seven known examples.
The auction as a whole is expected to make over two million in sales. That, however, might depend on the popularity of a rival attraction, a heavy-duty firearms fair that is to be held, if you please, at a school. The gun fair is designed for collectors of old military weapons, but instead has raised a heap of controversy...