Art and Auction: Alan Turing’s Hidden Manuscript

by Erica Moody

Bonhams has announced that a key scientific document by Alan Turing will be sold. 

By Caroline Sandholm 

Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley in The Imitation Game, which tells the story of Alan Turing (Photo Courtesy The Weinstein Company)

Kiera Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, which tells the story of Alan Turing (Photo Courtesy The Weinstein Company)

British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing composed a key handwritten scientific document, which is expected to sell for at least seven figures at Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts in New York on April 13. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity.

Turing’s manuscript consists of 56 pages in a simple handwritten notebook, bought from a stationer in Cambridge, UK. It dates from 1942, when Turing was working at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma Code.

Manuscript hi res

Photo of a page in Turing’s manuscript (Photo Courtesy Bonhams)


“The mathematical content of the manuscript gives an extraordinary insight into the working mind of one of the greatest luminaries of the 20th century. This is one of the most extraordinary pieces I have ever had the privilege to handle,” said Cassandra Hatton, Senior Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts and the History of Science at Bonhams – one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques.

The recently Academy Award- nominated movie “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, is based on Andrew Hodges’ book Alan Turing: The Enigma.

“Alan Turing was a war hero, who broke the Enigma code helping to bring an end to World War II,” said Cumberbatch.

Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, and a gay icon, tragically committed suicide in 1954 as a result of living in a time of intolerance.

Cumberbatch said that Turning’s impact on our everyday lives is enormous and that only the thought of being able to hold a manuscript written by him is thrilling.

“Alan Turing was parsimonious with his words and everything from his pen has a special value. He remained committed to free thinking work in pure mathematics,” said Hodges.

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