Thursday, 31 October 2013

Tulipomania by Mike Dash - Book Beginnings on Friday Challenge

Since we are popping over to Amsterdam for the weekend I thought it would be interesting to read something connected to Holland. Recently I found a reference to 'Tulipomania' by historian Mike Dash as a reference book for an historical novel. Tulipomania is the name for a period in the Dutch Golden Age in the beginning of the 17th century during which prices for tulip bulbs which had then recently been introduced to Europe reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. Do we see here a forerunner to modern share markets?

 "The Viceroy", from a 1637 Dutch catalog.
Price between 3,000 and 4,150 
 depending on size. A skilled craftsman at
the timeearned about 300 guilders a year.
Just starting it and it is bound to be a fascinating book. During the years 1633-37 there was a boom in the prices of tulip bulbs than can only be compared to the frenzy of shares today. Fortunes were made and lost over night. People paid more for a tulip bulb than for a house. There are many excellent reviews for this book and I like what Hortus says:  This is tulip-mania-as-ripping-yarn. I can't remember the last time I read a plant book or gardening book that was such a page turner.

Here is the opening line in the Prologue:

They came from all over Holland, dressed like crows in black from head to foot and journeying along frozen tracks rendered treacherous by the scars of a thousand hooves and narrow wheels. 

I also have to add the first paragraph of chapter 1 which is brilliant as well:

The tulip is not a native of the Netherlands. It is a flower of the East, a child of the unimaginable vastness of central Asia. So far as anyone can tell, it did not reach the United Provinces until 1570, and by then it had already been journeying for many hundreds of years from its original homeland in the mountain ranges that run north of the Himalayas along the fortieth parallel. 

Once read there will be a full review of this book.

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