Dutch Fool’s MapSKU: 7070
Dutch Fool’s Map
Date of publication:
30 x 23.5 cm
black and white
Afbeeldinge van’t zeer vermaarde Eiland Geks-Kop
Copper engraving, 30 x 23.5 cm, black and white, elaborate engraved border, Dutch text beneath; generous margins, blank verso.
A Dutch ‘fool’s cap’ map, satirising the bursting of the financial bubbles of 1720. Cartographic features are given punning names such as the River Bubble, the Island of Despair and the town of ‘Madmandam’, but the real Rivers Thames, Seine and Meuse are also marked, drawing attention to the scenes of the greatest folly. In Britain, the South Sea Company folded, wiping out inumberable fortunes after a period of intesnse speculation. In France, colourful Scottish financier John Law won the confidence of the Duke of Orleans (then Regent of France), and was permitted to set up the Mississippi Company, which controlled all trade with France’s vast and largely unexplored American possessions - believed to be rich in gold and silver. He established the Royal Bank and issued paper money based on the supposed value of shares in the company. Eventually he was minting French coinage, collecting taxes and largely controlling the French economy. The value of the shares soared, the French economy boomed, more paper notes were issued and after a period of wild speculation confidence collapsed, ruining investors throughout Europe. The imaginary ‘mad-head’ island depicted by the engraver in a sea of shares and inhabited by shareholders (discovered by Mr Law-rens) has an ass’s ears and wears a fool’s cap. The cartouche shows angry investors storming the offices of John Law’s company, and an equally ludicrous land-ship sailing towards a lunatic asylum. The insets, flanking the title, depict individual investors, ruined by their greed.