The Einstein Theory of Relativity

A few years ago the indie press I work for, PDB, brought out a new edition of The Einstein Theory of Relativity, a book originally self-published in 1936. Though her books became popular in the forties (even appearing in Armed Services editions), Lillian Rosanoff Lieber died in obscurity in 1986 at the age of 99. Lillian's husband, Hugh Gray Lieber, illustrated her many math books in the wild manner you will see as you scroll down.


I had nothing to do with picking the book for republication, but of course became intrigued by the illustrations, and also by Lillian's eccentric typography—she set her prose in free verse format. (It didn't hurt that another of the Lieber books we published, Infinity, carries the subtitle Beyond the Beyond the Beyond, which I've often thought about co-opting as a 50 Watts tagline.)


From the 2008 foreword by David Derbes and Robert Jantzen:

Until very recently, general relativity was taught only in postgraduate mathematics or physics courses, because the mathematical foundations of the theory were regarded as much too demanding for undergraduates. But the Liebers possessed an astounding, Promethean faith that a much larger audience could learn Einstein’s theories—the genuine article, not watered-down explanations. They believed that Einstein’s work, the deepest understanding of space and time yet conceived, belonged to all of us and should be made accessible to anyone who wanted to learn it. We share that belief. The first editions of this book were homemade by the Liebers (Hugh Lieber colored many of the illustrations by hand). After some years, a publisher took a chance, and kept the book in print for fifteen years. It has been out of print ever since, despite substantial efforts by the book’s fans to get it republished. This new edition has made the dream of decades come true for us.

Many authors have described special relativity at about the same mathematical level as the first part of Professor Lieber’s book, none with her economy or wit. The second part, describing general relativity, makes the book unique. The only other books providing such a close look at general relativity are textbooks; the authors of these books suppose their readers are already highly proficient with advanced mathematics. Professor Lieber assumes only geometry, hoping that you have a little calculus. If you do, and you’re willing to grasp new tools, you will see everything.


Note that I blew up some of the illustrations for this post. The book is 5" x 8".





An illustration which depicts, among other things, my mental state while proofreading this edition:






























































































Lillian's note on the typography: