Swiss banker Albin Schram collected more than 570 letters -- including a love letter from Napoleon and a sympathy letter from John Donne -- for more than three decades. Schram's family said it did not know of the letters until after his death, when the collection was found in a filing cabinet between a washer and dryer in the basement of his home in Lausanne, The Times of London reported Wednesday.
Among the missives were letters from scientists, composers, writers and artists -- including Isaac Newton, Ludwig von Beethoven, Charles Darwin, Voltaire, Alexander Pushkin and Claude Monet -- as well as political figures such as Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I.
The documents drew worldwide attention at the auction, with most of the bidding conducted by telephone. Christie's said it exceeded its $4 million estimate for the collection halfway through the sale.