True author’s presentation offprint of Einstein’s obituary for his influencer on general relativity, Ernst Mach, 1916


Albert Einstein: Ernst Mach. Sonderabdruck [Offprint] aus der Physikalischen Zeitschrift [17. Jg. 1916]. Leipzig: 1916.

Albert Einstein: Ernst Mach. Sonderabdruck [Offprint] aus der Physikalischen Zeitschrift [17. Jahrgang. 1916. Seite 101–104]. Überreicht vom Verfasser [Presented by the author]. With 1 cliché repro of Mach's signed photo portrait. Leipzig: Hirzel (August Pries) 1916.

4to (27,5:19,5). 4 pages. Letterpress on machine paper, in original publisher’s brochure on brown stock with black title printing.

True author's presentation offprint in the original wrappers, of Einstein's obituary for Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, a precursor of the general theory of relativity.

Content: With respect to Einstein's general theory of relativity Mach is nowadays best known for »Mach's principle« (a term coined by Einstein himself). According to this hypothesis, which is based on Mach's criticism of Newton's mechanics, one cannot speak of a movement of a body in relation to an absolute space, like Newton did, but only of movements in relation to all other bodies in the universe. Einstein cited »Mach's principle« as one of the three pillars underlying general relativity. His obituary for Mach, who had died on February 19th 2016, was received for publication by »Physikalische Zeitschrift« on March 14th and appeared in this very review as cover story on April 1st 2016.

"Einstein was in the middle of preparing his first synopsis on general relativity when in February 1916 word reached him that the sufferings of Mach had come to an end. He interrupted his work and prepared a short article on Mach which reached the editors of »Naturwissenschaften« [sic!, note DJ] a week before his synopsis was received by the »Annalen der Physik«. The paper on Mach is not just a standard obituary. It is the first occasion on which Einstein shows his exceptional talent for drawing with sensitivity a portrait of a man and his work, placing him in his time and speaking of his achievements and of his frailties with equal grace." (Pais) Present author's presentation offprint, executed in the review's typeset, was published in the immediate aftermath of the article.

Condition: Corners and margins of wrappers with some small faults, cover slightly water-stained, paper minimally foxy, otherwise solid copy.

Rarity: Present copy is imprinted „Überreicht vom Verfasser“ (presented by the author) on the upper right corner of the first page, which indicates it's utmost rarity, as author's presentation offprints of Einstein papers, from any journal or any period, were printed in a small print run for the use of the author only. RBH shows one auction result only (2021). Apart from this all offprints by Einstein published before and in the immediate afthermath the publication of the general theory of relativity in 1916, even those not reserved for the author's presentation, tended to be issued in small quantities such as 25-50 copies only.

Reference: Boni, N.: A bibliographical checklist and index to the published writings of Albert Einstein, 85; The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume 6, 29; Shields, M. C.: Bibliographie der Schriften Einsteins. In: Schilpp, P. A.: Albert Einstein als Philosoph und Naturforscher, 93; Weil, E.: Albert Einstein. A bibliography of his scientific papers, 1901-1930, 89; Pais, A.: Subtle is the Lord. The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (2005 ed.), p. 282.