First journal issue of Einstein’s early paper on the cosmological implications of general relativity, 1918


Albert Einstein: Kritisches zu einer von Hrn. De Sitter gegebenen Lösung der Gravitationsgleichungen. Berlin: 1918

Albert Einstein: Kritisches zu einer von Hrn. De Sitter gegebenen Lösung der Gravitationsgleichungen. [Critical Comment on a Solution of the Gravitational Field Equations Given by Mr. De Sitter.] Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XII (1918). Sitzung der physikalisch-mathematischen Klasse am 7. März, p. 269-272. Berlin: Verlag der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften (in commission at Georg Reimer [Reichsdruckerei]), 21st March 1918.

Imperial 8vo (26,5:19 cm). 3 pages, numbered 269-272. Letterpress on machine paper, in original publisher’s brochure on orange-coloured stock with black title printing.

Contents: Einstein here criticises De Sitter's equations for gravitational fields and provides the first proper definition of a space-time singularity.

„Einstein never said so explicitly, but it seems reasonable to assume that he had in mind that the correct equations should have no solutions at all in the absence of matter. However, right after his [Einstein's paper »Kosmologische Betrachtungen zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie“, published mid February 2017, note WoP] paper appeared, de Sitter did find a solution (...) Einstein must have been disappointed. In 1918 he looked for ways to rule out the de Sitter solution, but soon realised that there is nothing wrong with it.“ (Paise)

Despite Einstein's critique, the De Sitter model was the dominant cosmological model until the 1930s, at which time Einstein and de Sitter together proposed a "just right" cosmological model. The great cosmological debate between Einstein and De Sitter marks the beginning of the modern scientific understanding of the origins of the universe. The Academy's publishing list on the rear cover also announces an offprint of this paper for Reichsmark 0,50.

Condition: Wrappers at margins minimally torn, some pages creased due to reading, otherwise well preserved indeed.

Rarity: RBH records 3 copies of this paper at auction (2019, 2011, 2002), none of them the first separate printing. As of January 2024 two more copies of this paper are for sale.

Reference: Alicke, Einstein, 91; Boni, N.: A bibliographical checklist and index to the published writings of Albert Einstein, 108; The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume 7, 5; Shields, M. C.: Bibliographie der Schriften Einsteins. In: Schilpp, P. A.: Albert Einstein als Philosoph und Naturforscher, 117; Weil, E.: Albert Einstein. A bibliography of his scientific papers, 1901-1930, 120; Pais, A.: Subtle is the Lord. The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (2005 ed.), p. 288.