Now being cataloged for a July auction at Christie's in London, the mass of missives includes a love letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine, a letter of condolence by philosopher-writer John Donne and a searing dispatch on the shortcomings of men by author Charlotte Bronte, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
When Christie's Susannah Morris finished her first pass, she counted nearly 1,000 letters written by luminaries such as Ludwig von Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Ernest Hemingway, Frederick the Great, Voltaire, Lewis Carroll, Claude Monet, Winston Churchill and Gandhi.
Morris valued the cache, which will be sold in separate lots, at nearly $4 million.
Albin Schram, who died two years ago in Lausanne, spent half his life amassing the collection. Morris said Schram neither cataloged nor showed his letters, found in a metal file cabinet by a washer and dryer.
"It was an extraordinary find in such an improbable place. It is a history in miniature of the last 500 years of western civilization ... ," Morris told the British newspaper.