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Lot
37126

Albert Einstein. Mein Weltbild. Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.. First edition. Presentation copy, inscribe...

2010 February Signature Rare Books Auction #6038

 
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Auction Ended On: Feb 11, 2010
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Description:
Albert Einstein's "Weltbild," Inscribed by Einstein to His Friend and Mentor, Max Talmey
Albert Einstein. Mein Weltbild. Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.

First edition. Presentation copy, inscribed by Albert Einstein in black ink on the front free endpaper to his friend and mentor, Max Talmey: "Was im Leichtsinn mir entfahren / That der Teufel aufbewahren. / Herrn Talmey mit herzlichen / Geburtstags Grussen / A. Einstein / 1934" ("What I let slip carelessly / the Devil kept. / Mr. Talmey with / best wishes on your birthday. / A Einstein / 1934").

Octavo (7.8125 x 5.125 inches; 198 x 130 mm.). 269, [3, blank] pages. Publisher's black cloth lettered in gilt on the front cover and lettered in black against a gilt panel on the spine. Corners and head of spine lightly bumped, small ding to the outer edge of the front board, endpapers slightly browned. Short tears to the outer margin of pages 31-40. A very good copy. In the original dust jacket (jacket with some chips and tears).

On the front flap of the dust jacket, Einstein has crossed through Mein Weltbild, and written "Quatsch" ("Nonsense") beneath it.

This collection of eleven of Einstein's essays was translated into English by Alan Harris as The World as I See It (1934).

Max Talmey (born Max Talmud) was a Polish medical student who introduced the young Albert Einstein to the wonders of science, mathematics, and philosophy. "It was the custom among European Jewish families to help impoverished students by regularly giving them good meals. Every Thursday, Talmey came to dinner at the Einstein house, and he and Albert became good friends even though there was a ten-year difference in their ages. In appreciation for the weekly meal, Talmey loaned Albert books on science, beginning with a series called Popular Books on Natural Science by Aaron Bernstein. Then he brought somewhat more advanced books such as Force and Matter by Ludwig Buchner and Kosmos by Alexander von Humboldt. The book that made the greatest impression was a geometry textbook [Theodor Spieker's Lehrbuch der ebenen Geometrie] that Talmey loaned to twelve-year-old Albert" (John B. Severance, Einstein: Visionary Scientist (New York: 1999), page 25).

"During his medical school years in Munich, Max Talmey (1867-1941) had an important early influence on the education of Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Their five-year association occurred between 1889 and 1894. Einstein was a boy, 10 1/2 years old, when they first met. Talmey was 11 years older than Einstein, actually twice his age, and was studying at the University of Munich medical school. Talmey helped direct Einstein's thinking in mathematics, physics and philosophy. Their paths separated after Talmey graduated from medical school and emigrated to the United States. They met again several times, but only for short visits. This tale of two students provides insights into the development of an astute physician and a scientific genius" (Ravin, page [1]).

After Talmey emigrated to the United States, he practiced medicine, mainly ophthalmology, in New York City, where "made significant contributions to medicine, the popularization of Einstein's work, and to the development of international languages" (Ravin, page [1]). Talmey remained in New York until his death in 1941. Einstein emigrated to America in 1933, and lived in Princeton, New Jersey, until he died in 1955.

"Einstein received the Nobel prize in physics for 1921, but the decision to give him the award was not made until late in 1922...During the years just before Einstein received the Nobel prize, many articles were published in the lay literature about him and his spectacularly brilliant work. Talmey realized that this man was his old friend. He spent much of 1919 and 1920 at the New York Public Library, learning what he could about his friend's work. In 1920 Columbia University was considering honoring Einstein, and Talmey was asked to create a report about his relationship with the famous scientist" (Ravin, pages 11-12).

In his 1932 Max Talmey published his book The Relativity Theory Simplified and the Formative Period of Its Inventor, in which he attempts to explain Einstein's work to the public. "While he admitted that he was not the first to make the attempt, Talmey showed how his unique knowledge of the creator of relativity theory offered some advantages. The most important aspect of his book is the tale of the relationship he had with Einstein, for it gives us insights into the development of one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived" (Ravin, pages 13-14).

In Part III of his book, "The Formative Period of the Inventor of the Relativity Theory," Talmey reports on Einstein's early years and describes his relationship with the young scientist. Talmey writes (on page 159): "Extraordinary mentality was already evident in Albert Einstein when he was only a young boy. This I observed at close range through my associations with him from his tenth to his fifteenth year, and I had the good fortune even to play some part in its unfolding during this highly formative period of his life." He continues (on page 160): "With the exception of his nearest relatives I am the only one who was personally familiar with that important stage in the life of this preeminent scientist, when the first stones for the foundation of his future greatness were laid."

"Although Albert was eleven years younger than the medical student, close fellowship soon developed between them, due to the young boy's exceptional intelligence which enabled him to discuss with a college graduate subjects far above the comprehension of children of his age. He showed a particular inclination toward physics and took pleasure in conversing on physical phenomena. I gave him therefore as reading matter A. Bernstein's 'Popular books on Physical Science' and L. Büchner's 'Force and Matter,' two works that were then quite popular in Germany. The boy was profoundly impressed by them. Bernstein's work especially, which describes physical phenomena lucidly and engagingly, had a great influence on Albert, and enhanced considerably his interest in physical science. He never forgot Bernstein's books. Even since he has become famous, he has often praised them...On the occasion of a visit of Professor and Mrs. Einstein to my home, in 1921, I asked him what he thought of the vilification of Bernstein's books by the biographer who calls them an obsolete work of 'sham science.' These are almost the very words of Professor Einstein's reply: Bernstein's work is a very good book even now, and at that time it was the best of its kind. It has exerted a very great influence on my whole development. I do not think much of 'Force and Matter,' but at that time this book, too, made a deep impression on me'" (Talmey, pages 162-163).

"After his promotion to the fourth grade...I gave him...for self-study, Spieker's text-book of geometry [Lehrbuch der ebenen Geometrie]. I used to visit his home every week, and whenever I came he delighted in showing me new problems from the book which he had solved in the preceding week. At first I aided him in solving difficult problems and thus followed closely his introduction, in this way, to the study of mathematics. After a short time, a few months, he had worked through the whole book of Spieker. He thereupon devoted himself to higher mathematics, studying all by himself Lübsen's excellent works on the subjects. These, too, I had recommended to him if memory serves me right. Soon the flight of his mathematical genius was so high that I could no longer follow. Thereafter philosophy was often a subject of our conversations. I recommended to him the reading of Kant. At that time he was still a child, only thirteen years old, yet Kant's works, incomprehensible to ordinary mortals, seemed to be clear to him after read through his 'Critique of Pure Reason' and the works of other philosophers" (Talmey, pages 163-164).

"For five years I had the good fortune of associating very often with the young mathematician and philosopher. In all these years I never saw him reading any light literature" (Talmey, page 164).

"Max Talmey, a doctor of medicine and a personal friend of Einstein, has succeeded as probably no other man has in producing a book, explaining the relativity theory which any person of ordinary intelligence can read with understanding...Dr. Talmey has explained the facts so clearly that any person with an interest in this subject can grasp them" (from a review of The Relativity Theory Simplified by C. S. Atchison which appeared in The Mathematical Association of America, Vol. 41, No. 2 (February 1934), pages 96-97).

"The soundness and authoritative character of this volume are attested by a statement by Professor Einstein himself in a letter to the author [dated 21 January 1933], as follows: 'Only yesterday I found time to read in your new book. I was glad to see how thoroughly you have occupied yourself with the intellectual basis of the relativity theory. I do believe your book can bring home the theory to many an intelligent educated layman and to many a student who does not want to penetrate more deeply into the mathematical basis'" (from another review of Talmey's book, which appeared in Popular Astronomy, Vol. 41 (1933), pages 237-238).

In her biographical sketch of Einstein, Einstein's younger sister Maja writes of Talmey that he "initiated the youth into the world of philosophical thought. He discussed with him all of the questions raised by the youth thirsting for knowledge and recommended the reading of books on natural philosophy (Kraft und Stoff [Force and Matter] by Büchner, Kosmos by Humboldt, the Naturwissenschaftliche Volksbücher [Popular Books on Natural Sciences] by Bernstein, among others). Moreover, despite the difference in their ages, he treated the boy as an equal and friend. Whereas Uncle Jakob's style of teasing skepticism about his abilities always spurred him on anew, and the teachers at the Gymnasium pedantically looked more for ready answers than for the ability to probe and reflect, the more insightful medical student offered young Albert far more. For he invested his whole person in examining everything that engaged the boy's interest. This occurred at that very crucial age when the child matures into a thinking person. His scientific interests were broadened as a result; he was no longer engrossed solely in mathematics, but had already begun to concern himself with the fundamental problems of the natural sciences in general" ("Albert Einstein-A Biographical Sketch by Maja Winteler-Einstein (Excerpt)," in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume I: The Early Years, 1879-1902 (Princeton, New Jersey: 1987), page xxi).

James G. Ravin, "Albert Einstein and his mentor Max Talmey. The Seventh Charles B. Snyder Lecture," in Documenta Ophthalmologica 94 (1997): pages 1-17. Max Talmey, The Relativity Theory Simplified and the Formative Period of Its Inventor (New York: Falcon Press, 1932), pages 159-179.

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