Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

Anne Goldgar

Language: English

Pages: 446

ISBN: B001T4YV6A

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

Anne Goldgar

Language: English

Pages: 446

ISBN: B001T4YV6A

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the 1630s the Netherlands was gripped by tulipmania: a speculative fever unprecedented in scale and, as popular history would have it, folly. We all know the outline of the story—how otherwise sensible merchants, nobles, and artisans spent all they had (and much that they didn’t) on tulip bulbs. We have heard how these bulbs changed hands hundreds of times in a single day, and how some bulbs, sold and resold for thousands of guilders, never even existed. Tulipmania is seen as an example of the gullibility of crowds and the dangers of financial speculation.

           

But it wasn’t like that. As Anne Goldgar reveals in Tulipmania, not one of these stories is true. Making use of extensive archival research, she lays waste to the legends, revealing that while the 1630s did see a speculative bubble in tulip prices, neither the height of the bubble nor its bursting were anywhere near as dramatic as we tend to think. By clearing away the accumulated myths, Goldgar is able to show us instead the far more interesting reality: the ways in which tulipmania reflected deep anxieties about the transformation of Dutch society in the Golden Age.

           

“Goldgar tells us at the start of her excellent debunking book: ‘Most of what we have heard of [tulipmania] is not true.’. . . She tells a new story.”—Simon Kuper, Financial Times

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pomponii “to start an acquaintance,” as well as to send him portraits from life of the rare plants that he had in his garden. “This is the first time in my life that I have spoken to him, for the purpose of knowing whether it was true that he had the double Jonquil as I had heard. Several people claim to have it, but he actually does. I find him a very decent gentleman.”36 De Maes’ remarks about L’Amoral give us a picture of the world of the liefhebbers in one large Flemish town. L’Amoral’s double

van der Woude, Tooneel van Flora (Amsterdam: Joost Broersz, 1637). Permission of Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Knuttel 4539. { 302 } 68. Arlequyn Actionist, cartoon from De Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid, 1720. Permission of British Library, shelfmark 789.g.3. {308 } 69. Cornelis Danckerts, Floraes Gecks-Kap, cartoon from 1637 reprinted in De Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid, 1720. Permission of British Library, shelfmark 789. g.3. {310–11 } 70. Afbeeldinge van ’t zeer vermaarde Eiland

could, it was thought, actually create a new tulip.48 Some of these promised shortcuts to the wonderful flames and stripes so coveted by collectors remained close to natural processes. The theory that broken tulips were actually ill led John Rea, for example, to suggest that one should deliberately damage the bulbs of “more vulgar” tulips by digging them up just before they flowered and putting them in the sun “to abate their luxury, and cause them to come better marked the year following,” a

his older brother Isaac (now known for having written an account of Russia in the Time of Troubles and for having been painted by Frans Hals, sitting smiling beneath a tree beside his wife, Beatrix van der Laen). In the 1620s Lambert Massa also joined together with another brother, Christiaen, in his investment in a variety of voyages to Archangel. Similar bonds can be seen in the potash business set up in 1640 by the brothers Jacques and Pieter de Clercq and their nephew Abraham Ampe, the son of

different tulips, an exercise that must have been extraordinarily difficult, as the smallest variation in the striping or flaming on a white or yellow background would have resulted in a tulip being given a new name. As for the availability of tulips for sale, in at least in a few cases this was advertised. If the Weeskamer in a town held a sale to benefit the estate held in trust for orphaned children, the auction would be advertised in a variety of cities in hope of attracting a sizeable number of

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