3 2 2 D O C U M E N T 2 1 8 D E C E M B E R 1 9 2 0
For, I thought, you never remembered that you have a lawyer in the family who can
put in his share toward lending your finance department some kind of order. Don’t
be offended if I make you suggestions about this. Your publisher of the Popular
has cheated you flagrantly. You helped a rich and shrewd publisher (all
publishers are shrewd nowadays! and how!) make a fortune, or he raked it into his
big strongbox, for a pittance
100 free copies per printing run that
you can’t even verify, including translation rights (!), as I hear. Do you really be-
lieve that this booklet would be sold for a single penny less because you gave your
little opus, so to speak, for free? Your motive was touchingly good, but the conse-
quence simply was that you made a rich publisher even richer without making the
purchase cheaper for a single reader!
I imagine the business as follows: little will be alterable in the rel[evant] con-
tract. In this regard publishers are not so soft as to let go of the profit they had
nabbed for themselves. But I hope you didn’t give away your future productions as
well, too. If not, I suggest the following to you: pull yourself together and write a
a summarizing work on relativity theory; it doesn’t need to be compre-
hensive, perhaps a short histor[ical] introduction with a detailed exposition of your
theory as part II, the mathematical exposition as part III, all in concentrated form
so that both nonspecialists and specialists in the field, but notably students, find ev-
erything they wish to know. The whole thing would thus be in part “popular,” in
part addressed to specialists.
Vieweg will gladly deal with such a book, but any other publisher you like would
as well. But then you have to draw up a contract that rewards your work thus far;
indeed, I hope your exceedingly unfavorable agreement with Vieweg will even be
rectifiable this way. As a lawyer I would gladly concern myself with it and then
your families will be provided for! It is something else when you can actually live
off this work instead of being dependent on the Zurich business!
Don’t tell yourself that your theory is most quickly turned into common property
if you make such gifts to publishers while you have financial worries! Besides, the
psychology of the public is such that it only values what it pays for. I can imagine
your scruples and do find that you are on the wrong track, if not on a rocky road of
Up to now I’ve been speaking as a “materialist,” if you will, but I’m thinking of
you, of your family, of the whole disagreeable existence of a man who must con-
stantly scrutinize his pockets for holes and never escapes the unease about how he
can drum up enough Swiss francs in order to provide for the necessities of his fam-
ilies in time.
And now the lawyer in me. My existence as an agent of this honorable profes-
sion is, according to definition, to act on behalf of the material interests of other
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