Albert Einstein handwritten letter sold for €24,000 (£20,870) at Nagel's auction.

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On offer were numerous letters from German scientists, primarily physicists, to a family of south German industrialists. They dated from the late-19th century up to the 1960s and were divided into several lots which mostly met with moderate interest.

The big exception was a one-page handwritten letter in German from Albert Einstein, addressed to the physicist Max von Laue. It was sent from Princeton on June 1, 1939, to where Einstein had moved in 1933 to avoid the persecution by the Nazis.

He starts on a personal note, wishing to thank Laue for two letters, before he (Einstein) reaches 70. At the time he had in fact just turned 60. He goes on to praise Laue’s son as a “great guy” and a “good musician”.

Einstein then turns to his research with references to his theory of space-time and also writes of the “Schwarzschild catastrophe”, a reference to the work of the German scientist Karl Schwarzschild, who had worked out solutions to Einstein’s field equations of general relativity, soon after they had been introduced in 1915. Schwarzschild died a year later, but his work had a bearing on future theories regarding black holes.

The guide of €1000 was highly tempting and attracted several bidders who competed with a determined German collector who had to invest €24,000 (£20,870) to seal the deal.