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Albert Einstein’s passport photo featured at Bonhams


Albert Einstein's Passport Photo
Albert Einstein gifted this passport photo to the owners of a guesthouse in Bermuda in 1935 (Image: Bonhams)

Albert Einstein’s original passport photo for his US citizenship application will be offered with an estimate of $8,000-12,000 in Bonhams’ June 12 fine books sale.

In 1933, the Nazis came to power in Germany. Einstein was away in the US at the time and wisely decided not to return. He tried out a couple of roles in the US and toyed with the idea of taking up a post at Oxford University in England.

After some thought, he decided that Princeton would be the right fit for him. This shot was taken in Bermuda, where Einstein travelled with his family in 1935 to fill out their citizenship papers. This would allow them to re-enter the US on a different visa.

He was met by the island’s governor and offered his pick of its fabulously luxurious hotels. However, Einstein turned them all down in favour of the pretty Roseacre Guest House. He spent much of his time there hanging out with a German cook from a local restaurant.

Apparently this photograph didn’t quite pass muster because Einstein gifted it to the granddaughter of the guest house’s owners. He’s signed on the front and dated it May 30, 1935.

A leather jacket Einstein bought in 1935 and brought with him to Bermuda sold for £110,500 ($148,549) at Bonhams in 2016.

There’s also a hand drawn musical manuscript page from modernist composer John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958) that’s valued at $10,000-15,000.

John Cage manuscript
John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra broke new ground (Image: Bonhams)

This groundbreaking score required the players to play its 63 pages in any order they wished. As well as straightforward musical notation, players are also instructed to explore their instruments in unconventional ways – such as tapping or directly plucking the piano strings with the hands.

Cage grew out of the experimental art and theatre movements of the 1950s and 1960s to become one of the most influential figures in modern music. His best known work is 4’33”, in which the assembled musicians turn the pages of an empty score.

A rare Nazi Enigma codebook will also be offered in the auction with a valuation of $20,000-30,000.

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