The 35-year-old contract that founded Apple will go under the gavel in two weeks, when auctioneer Sotheby's predicts it will fetch as much as $150,000 (£96,000).

Sotheby's will auction off the contract December 13 as part of a larger sale of rare books and manuscripts, and has estimated it will sell for $100,000 to $150,000. In a statement today, the auctioneer called the contract "the first chapter in the story of one of America's most important companies."

The three page document, dated April 1, 1976, was signed by co-founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and the lesser-known Ron Wayne.

Wayne was instrumental in the founding of Apple, according to Sotheby's, which cited the recent biography of Jobs penned by Walter Isaacson. Forty-one at the time, and now 77, Wayne was recruited by Jobs to convince Wozniak to launch the partnership. For his part, Wayne was offered a 10% share in the new company, Apple Computers.

Jobs and Wozniak were to evenly split the remaining 90%, according to the contact.

Wayne, however, relinquished his part of the deal just days later, receiving $800 for his shares. He bowed out in part because of past business venture failures as well as the fact that all the partners were personally liable for any debts the new company might accrue. At Apple's current market capitalisation, Wayne's 10% would be worth approximately $3.5 billion.

Wayne authored the contract, said Sotheby's. The sale will include the contract and an agreement documenting Wayne's withdrawal from the fledgling firm.

Apple's most famous founder, Steve Jobs, died this year at the age of 56, just six weeks after resigning as CEO, a position he had held since 1997. Apple did not reply to questions about whether it would bid on the documents.