“In 1593, botanist Carolus Clusius brought tulips from Constantinople to the University of Leiden in Holland, planting the bulbs in a small garden for purposes of medicinal research. He was a right stingy gardener and refused to give or sell any to the locals. Some of his neighbors, looking to make a buck (or florin, or guilder, or whatever) on the exotic new flower from Turkey and disappointed with Clusius’s lack of capitalistic fervor, broke into his garden, stole some bulbs, and started the Dutch tulip trade.
Soon enough, a few of the more well-to-do Dutch had tulip bulbs in their gardens with which to impress the ladies. Fads being what they are, the wealthy in Holland subsequently developed a rather inexplicable taste for them and for the next seventy years or so, tulips increased dramatically in popularity and price.
As Charles MacKay notes in his Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (written in 1841), “Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them a great deal of trouble… upon the same principle we must account for the unmerited economia lavished upon these fragile blossoms.” Before long, the normally judicious Dutch found themselves going into hock to populate their boudoirs and studies with little clumps of vegetable matter (the bulbs were quickly regarded as being far too valuable to actually plant). Vast amounts of property changed hands to procure tulip bulbs to display in one’s home, much to the befuddlement of outsiders. A speculative bubble ensued, and tulip bulbs, while fairly ordinary in the eyes of flower mongers today, were wildly overvalued.
Indeed, MacKay tells us, ‘ One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue in this flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a people as the Dutch; but it has neither the beauty nor the perfume of the rose….'”
~ from History House: Tulipomania
I was spring cleaning and came across a macro lens that was loaned to me. I didn’t know how to use my camera at the time, so it’s been sitting in my closet.
I had fun trying it out today – using tulips that I paid $3.99 for.