A few months before Adolf Hitler began his reign of terror in Germany, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Sigmund Freud asking the revered psychoanalyst for a prescription against “man’s lust for hatred and destruction.” Anguished by his role in ushering the atomic age, Einstein wrote, “Is it possible to control man’s mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychoses of hate and destructiveness?”
Freud penned a lengthy reply, explaining that the instinct to war was inherent in individuals, and that the collective wisdom of a group was needed to temper it.
Packed with insights pertinent today, the historic correspondence called “Why War?” is surprisingly not well known. To shed light on the two luminaries’ exchange, German type designer Harald Geisler wants to send their words directly to mailboxes around the world.
This year, on the 85th anniversary of the letters, Geisler will reproduce Einstein and Freud’s words using two fonts simulating their penmanship that he developed with his collaborator Elizabeth Waterhouse. Backers to his Kickstarter campaign can arrange for those recreated letters to be sent directly to anyone in the world—including any hot-headed rulers entrusted with nuclear codes.
A stickler for precision, Geisler pored over hundreds of manuscripts in Freud and Einstein’s archives and traced samples of their scrawl over and over again when he was developing typefaces after their penmanship.
“What really struck me was the circumstances in which they were created,” explains Geisler. “In the mid-1932, Einstein wrote to Freud, a time in which pacifist activities were still possible. In December, only three month after receiving Freud’s reply, Einstein left Germany for a holiday in the US not knowing that he would never return.”
Geisler will mail Freud and Einstein’s letters on the exact dates they were originally sent in 1932, from the original places they were sent. Einstein’s missive will be postmarked from Potsdam, Germany on July 30. Freud’s reply will be mailed to recipients from his apartment in Vienna, Austria in September.