Albert Einstein's secret note on his theory of happiness and happy living sold for $1.56m (£1.18m) at an auction in Jerusalem. The note, along with another one also penned by Einstein, that sold for $240,000, were originally given to a courier in Tokyo, in lieu of a tip.
The winning bid for Einstein's note on happy living far exceeded expectations, which was previously estimated to fetch around $5,000 and $8,000, according to Winner's Auctions and Exhibitions. The note, penned on the stationery of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, says in German "a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest".
The second note, written at the same time, reads "where there's a will, there's a way".
The autographed notes were hand-written by Einstein in 1922, while he was on a lecture tour in Japan, shortly after he was informed that he would be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. It is believed that the German-born physicist handed the notes to a Japanese courier, who either refused to accept a tip, in accordance with the local practice, or was given the notes because Einstein presumably had no small change available.
"Maybe if you're lucky those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip," Einstein told the courier, according to the seller, a resident of the German city of Hamburg.
According to Winner's Auctions, bids for the notes were accepted in person, by phone and online, with the opening price for Einstein's note on happy living at $2,000. However, in 20 short minutes, bids rapidly rose and the auction eventually led to two potential buyers finally vying for the item.
The auction room reportedly broke out in applause after 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 told AFP on condition of anonymity after the sale.
Roni Grosz, the archivist in charge of the world's largest Einstein collection at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, told AFP ahead of Tuesday's auction that it was uncertain if the notes could be perceived as a reflection of Einstein's own introspections on his growing fame. Although the notes hold little scientific value, they may still bring to light some of the private musings of one of the greatest physicists in the world.
"What we're doing here is painting the portrait of Einstein — the man, the scientist, his effect on the world — through his writings," said Grosz. "This is a stone in the mosaic."