Early anastatic reprint of the first separate edition of Einstein’s first synopsis of his general theory of relativity, 1919


Albert Einstein: Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie. Sonderdruck aus den „Annalen der Physik“, Band 49, 1916.

Albert Einstein: Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie. Sonderdruck aus den „Annalen der Physik“, Band 49, 1916. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth (Omnitypie-Ges., Nachfl. L. Zechnall, Stuttgart; Metzger & Wittig, Leipzig [Wrappers]) 1916 [but c. 1919]. 8vo. (16:24,3 cm). 64 pages. Letterpress on machine paper, in original publisher’s wrappers on cream stock with black title printing on covers and spine, incorporating publisher's emblem and ornamental framing on front cover, as well as publisher's advertisements on rear cover.

Edition, Contents: „In mid-January 1916 Einstein had still expressed doubts about his ability to write such a paper, calling his writings "correct but quite indigestible" ("zwar richtig aber reichlich unverdaulich." Einstein to H. A. Lorentz, 17 January 1916)“. But a „few months after the final papers had appeared [4 papers of Nov. and Dec. 1915, where he finally had completed the theory of general relativity as a logical structure, note WoP], Einstein was ready to spend some time writing a review paper in which the whole theory was presented and explained in a consistent and accessible way (...) It gives an excellent overview of the theory.“ (cf. Einstein Papers). For present synopsis Einstein also made substantial additions, published here for the first time. „Einstein’s paper of March 1916 concludes with a brief section on the three new predictions: the red shift, the bending of light, and the precession of the perihelion of Mercury. In the final paragraph of that section is recorded the single major experimental confirmation which at that time could be claimed for the theory: the Mercury anomaly. In 1916 next to nothing was known about the red shift; the bending of light was first observed in 1919.“ (cf. Paise)

The paper was first printed on May 11th 1916 in the special interest journal »Annalen der Physik« (series 4, vol. XLIX, issue no. 7, pp. 769-822) and probably simultaneously as separate printing in book form by the Leipzig editor Barth (titled »Sonderdruck«), enlarged with an introduction by Einstein and a table of content. Edited in this way and therefore more accessible for a broader audience of interested lay people the Barth book edition of Einstein's probably most important achievement in the history of science became popular and was reprinted several times until 1929. According to Weil present first reprint from 1919 is of better printing quality than others, and is bound in the original paper wrappers of the 1916 edition, with an updated publisher's ads list of 5 available titles appearing between 1911 and 1918.

Condition: Former faults and tears at margins of front and rear cover skilfully restored, front cover with shelf wear, paper time-stained, otherwise clean copy.

Rarity: Scarce in trade. RHB, ABPC (1973ff.) and JBP/JAP/APO record 4 copies of this particular reprint in the original wrappers and comparable condition at auction (2016, 2014 (former copy of Karl Malmkvist), 2006, 2004).

Reference: Boni, N.: A bibliographical checklist and index to the published writings of Albert Einstein, 78 (for the journals issue), 78.1 for the separate edition); Carter/Muir, Bücher die die Welt verändern, 725; Norman 696 (for the journal issue); Shields, M. C.: Bibliographie der Schriften Einsteins. In: Schilpp, P. A.: Albert Einstein als Philosoph und Naturforscher, 84 (for the separate edition) 86 (for the journal issue); The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume 6, 30, cit. p. XIX and p. 238, fn 1; Weil, E.: Albert Einstein. A bibliography of his scientific papers, 1901-1930, 80a; Pais, A.: Subtle is the Lord. The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (2005 ed.), p. 273; Sauer, T. „Albert Einstein, review paper on general relativity theory“. In: Grattan-Guinness I. et al., ed.: Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics, 2015, pp. 802-22.

Additional information

Weight 1 kg