Bonhams Sells Alan Turing's Manuscript On Foundations Of Mathematics And Computer Science For $1,025,000

Fine Books and Manuscripts including the Hidden Wartime Manuscript of Alan Turing
13 Apr 2015
New York

New York - A key handwritten scientific document by Alan Turing in which he works on the foundations of mathematical notation and computer science was sold for $1,025,000 in the Fine Books & Manuscripts Sale at Bonhams New York today, April 13. A portion of the proceeds from Bonhams and the vendor will be donated to charity.

Cassandra Hatton, Senior Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts and the History of Science at Bonhams said, "This is a wonderful result and a fitting testament to Alan Turing's impact and legacy. It has been a great privilege to have been involved in this sale and we are immensely pleased that all the people who bid for this unique item and indeed the wider public have recognised Turing's importance and place in history."

Made up of 56 pages contained in a simple notebook bought from a stationers in Cambridge, UK, it is almost certainly the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing in existence. From internal evidence, it dates from 1942 when he was working at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma Code, and provides remarkable insight into the thought process of a genius. As he writes in his distinctive hand: "The Leibniz notation I find extremely difficult to understand in spite of it having been the one I understood the best once! It certainly implies that some relation between x and y has been laid down eg, y=x2+3x..." It was among the papers left by Turing in his will to his close friend and fellow mathematician, Robin Gandy. Turing committed suicide in 1954 as a consequence of the hormone treatment to 'cure' his homosexuality which he was undergoing as an alternative to imprisonment.

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Alan Turing (1912-1954) was a British mathematician and computer scientist widely considered to be the father of modern computing. During World War II, Turing did crucial work at Bletchley Park breaking the German Enigma Code. Turing was tried and found guilty of crimes of gross indecency for engaging in homosexual acts. He committed suicide in 1954 as a consequence of the hormone treatment to 'cure' his homosexuality which he was undergoing as an alternative to imprisonment. Turing is the subject of the award winning film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, which is based on the definitive biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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