“Good grace, a Semper August bulb – those are the most beautiful and the most valuable – last week, a single bulb was sold for six magnificent horses, three hogsheads of wine, a dozen sheep, two dozens of silver wine decanters and a sea panting of Esaias van de Velde!”
With a voice shrill from excitement, the merchant from the novel Tulip Fever describes this remarkable transaction.
In 1636, the Netherlands were under the spell of the tulip trade. A man could make a fortune by smart buying and selling; it was not about flowers any longer.
The bulbs were sold and resold unseen. And every single transaction raised their price.
Until February 1637, when the trade collapsed with a bang. Everybody panicked and demanded their money back, or their bulbs. Only to find out that neither could be delivered.
The highest amount ever paid for a tulip was registered in Haarlem, where the famous Semper August changed owner for 8000 guilders. A sum which would buy one a house at the Amsterdam canals.
The speculative madness plays an entertaining part Deborah Moggach´s novel.