TLS signed “A. Einstein,” one page, 7 x 8.5, January 5, 1934. Letter to the imprisoned Nathan Leopold, Jr., of the notorious gay Jewish ‘thrill-killing’ couple whose trial for the kidnapping and murder of Chicago fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks was one of the most sensational news events of the 1920s. In full: “May I advise you not to attempt to achieve your goal too directly, but first to read a scientific book on Mechanics and on Electrodynamics. They should preferably be books which use higher mathematics (calculus) and which are not too long; for instance, the lectures by Planck. I am sorry that I do not know the English textbooks, but you should ask someone for advice who is familiar with them. When you are through with these books, it should be easy for you to study relativity; for instance, the collection of the original statements Lorentz-Einstein-Minkowski, the textbook by Kopff which as far as I know is translated into English, and the mathematical book on relativity by Eddington.” In very good to fine condition, with a prison censor’s ink stamp at bottom right, light uniform toning, a few light creases, and the two top corners skillfully repaired.
The recipient, Nathan Leopold, served 33 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of Franks. His accomplice, Loeb, served nearly twelve years before being fatally attacked by a former cellmate. Both were raised in wealthy families and were deemed exceptionally intelligent; Leopold, a recognized ornithologist at the age of nineteen, was a multilingual prodigy with a reported IQ of 210. During his incarceration, Leopold studied exhaustively while writing to notable figures such as Helen Keller, Erle Stanley Gardner, Carl Sandburg, Karl Menninger, and Einstein. The physicist’s gracious reply offers a concise historical reading guide to the workings of special relativity, but, ultimately, Leopold’s letter was simply used as a pretense to attain something far more material—he later admitted that he wrote Einstein simply because he ‘had a desire to own a letter of his.’ Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
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