EINSTEIN, ALBERT | TLS TO ARTHUR RUSHMORE, DISCUSSING THE TRANSLATION OF EINSTEIN’S MOST FAMOUS QUOTE “GOD IS SUBTLE, BUT HE IS NOT MALICIOUS”, 1 P, 29 APRIL 1954.
Typed letter signed (“A. Einstein."), to printer Arthur Rushmore of Madison, N.J. regarding the English translation of Einstein's famous quote "Der Herrgott ist raffiniert, aber nicht bösartig"
One page (11 x 8 ½ in.; 278 x 215 mm), embossed letterhead, Princeton, New Jersey, 29 April 1954; light fold creases, minor scattered foxing. With two printed fragmentary quotes, and note in unidentified hand, stained with minor losses. All pieces have been expertly conserved.
"GOD IS SUBTLE, BUT HE IS NOT MALICIOUS." EINSTEIN REVIEWS ONE OF HIS MOST FAMOUS QUOTES.
Arthur Rushmore, a printer at the firm of Harper & Brothers and founder of Golden Hind Press in New Jersey, asked for Einstein's commentary on the English translation of "raffiniert".
Einstein confirms the translation as "subtle" instead of "crafty", but, in what seems like an attempt to deflate the statement in general, he follows up with: "The sentence was used in a conversation and has been carved in stone - for fun - in the Common room of the Physics Building of Princeton University. It makes, of course, no sense taken out of context..."
He originally uttered the phrase in 1921, in response to some preliminary experiments on "ether wind" undertaken at Mount Wilson by Dayton C. Miller of Case Institute. Rushmore was not the only one to inquire after the true form of the phrase, in another 1954 response to Mr. Walter Corty, Einstein clarified Corty's quote of "God is sophisticated" to again be "God is subtle" (Sold Sotheby's 30 November 2018).
Einstein always stated he was not an atheist, however, he never subscribed to the idea of a "personal God" that concerned himself with the fates of human beings.