Photo Credit: Courtesy Nate D. Sanders' auction house
Rare Sigmund Freud autographed letter to fellow psychoanalyst Dr. Paul Federn

An unusually personal four-pages long letter, dated June 30 1913 and written by Sigmund Freud on his personal stationery from his home in Vienna, goes on auction this week at Nate D. Sanders’ auction house in Los Angeles. The opening bid for the set of letters and envelopes is $25,000.

According to the auction website, the autographed letter contains Freud’s notes on his Jewish heritage and ancestry, the development of psychoanalysis and the ”intense rejection” it had endured, his marriage and children, and his professional writings and honorary degree.


The letter is addressed to fellow psychoanalyst Dr. Paul Federn, one of Freud’s earliest proteges. Freud dryly comments at the beginning of his letter about his reluctance to answer Federn’s correspondence, which he misplaced – ”most likely as a consequence of my resistance.”

Freud’s letter’s envelope to Dr. Paul Federn

”For several months, your communication of 04/21 had made itself untraceable – most likely as a consequence of my resistance…” Freud writes. “I was born on the 6th of May [18]56 in Freiberg / Moravia. My father and mother came from Galicia. My mother, nee Nathansohn, from Brody, of very distinguished ancestry (the Nathansohn – Kallir family), my father of the merchant class. According to tradition, as he once reported to me, the Freud family is said to have sometime left their hometown of Köln [Cologne] during a period of persecution of Jews and then to have migrated eastward…

“After a brief stay in Leipzig, I arrived in Vienna at age 4, completed the Gymnasium, came to the university in 1873 and, after much toiling, became a student of the physiologist [Ernst Wilhelm Ritter von] Brucke who, because of my impoverished state, advised me to take up a practical field. I then turned to neuropathology, became an intern doctor at the hospital, and an adjunct professor in 1885 (doctorate, Dr. med., in 1882). In the fall of 1885, I received a travel grant and went to Paris to work and study with Prof. [Jean-Martin] Charcot. I then translated his lectures. In the spring of 1886, I set up my medical practice in Vienna, and in September of that year, I married Martha Bernays, the granddaughter of the Hakham [Chief Rabbi] Isaac B. of Hamburg, niece of Jacob and Michel B. We have brought up 6 children; two of the girls are already married now.

“My work on the neuroses, due to the influence of Dr. Josef Breuer in Vienna, began with a publication in the year 1893. From this developed the so-called psychoanalysis, a method of psychological treatment of neuroses, which arrives at special psychological advance conclusions, and the scientific foundations of which allowed manifold applications to other fields, including normal spiritual and intellectual life. It had been given practically no attention until approx. 1906, when increasing concern for the psychoanalytical problems began to grow, resulting in a zealous contingent of adherents as well as a fierce opposition, which have kept the medical public engaged to this day.”

Freud then lists the journals he had published: ”In 1902, I was granted the title of Prof. extraord. in Vienna. In no way was this meant to constitute recognition of my work. That was the case, however, regarding a call to the Clark University in Worcester, Mass., USA where, after I had given several lectures, an honorary doctorate, L.L.C., was bestowed on me.

The unusually intense type of rejection on the part of the psychiatric school caused the adherents of psychoanalysis to establish an International psychoanalytical association, which by now has 7 local chapters (Vienna, Zurich, Berlin, Munich, Budapest, and 2 in the USA). The members of this association have held several local conferences; the next one will be in Munich in Sept. 1913. Adherents of psychoanalysis can be found everywhere now. Publications on the subject are numerous. The whole movement is still growing… Freud.”


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