Several thousand papers by Mahatma Gandhi will find themselves under new ownership after next month’s auction in London. And although the price estimate is set very high, expecting to reach £500,000-£700,000, the collection is inarguably a valuable look into the leader’s time in South Africa.
Previously owned by Hermann Kallenbach, a close friend of Gandhi’s after they met in 1904 in Johannesburg, most of the documents are not in fact written by Gandhi. But despite this, the memories and letters of family, friends and associates of the late leader, provide an excellent source into this highly admired figure.
"The vast majority of this is unknown and unpublished, and has not been used by scholars in the last generation or two," books and manuscripts specialist at Sotheby’s auctioneers, Gabriel Heaton, said
"It is very much material that will be adding to our sum knowledge of Gandhi and his life."
Sotheby’s also hosted a previous auction of Gandhi’s letters to Kallenbach in 1986, where they sold for £140,000. Unsurprisingly, many hopefuls are looking to get their hands on more of Gandhi’s personal letters. Some have even settled for owning a piece of bloody grass from the spot where Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, or a pair of his glasses. Both of these remnants recently sold for £10,000 and £34,000 respectively.
"He is one of the towering figures of the 20th century," Heaton said
"There is only a tiny handful of individuals who have had such an enormous effect on world history ... Unlike most other comparable figures he never had an army at his disposal, which makes him unique in that way."
Gandhi also had a profound effect on his friend Kallenbach, who revered Gandhi’s ideas and saw him as a large source of inspiration.
"So many of the letters refer to the importance of this relationship and how Kallenbach was able to support Gandhi in a way few others could," Heaton said
Aside from these letters, the auction also features letters penned by Gandhi’s sons to Kallenbach, which provide a particularly illuminating look into Gandhi’s life in India.
"Father is becoming more and more awful," one letter thought to have been written by Harilal, his eldest son, reads
"It would not be strange if a time may come one of these days when either those who are living with Father might have to go or he might leave us all not being able to stand our life."
The auction is set to take place on July 10th at Sotheby’s English Literature and History sale.