This satirical engraving of the Mississippi Bubble is one of the most famous cartographic curiosities. It represents the collapse of the French Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, and similar English and Dutch companies. John Law, a Scottish financier, established the company in 1717 and was granted control of Louisiana. Law developed an elaborate plan - The Mississippi Scheme - to exploit the fabulous resources of the region. It quickly gained popularity and people rushed to invest in the scheme. Share prices opened at 500 livres and rapidly rose to 18,000 livres. At this point, speculators cashed in, caused a run on the shares, and the company went bankrupt. As a consequence of the failure of the Mississippi Scheme, confidence in other similar companies failed, and thousands of individual investors across Europe were ruined. The general term Bubble was applied to such schemes and this great engraving is filled with puns referring to the greed and foolishness of the speculators and investors. The central map is contained in an elaborately engraved cartouche surrounded by scenes of ill-fated investors. The map of the island of Madhead is in the shape of a man's head with the ears of a jackass, wearing a fool's cap. The Island of Poverty, Island of Sorrow, and Island of Despair surround the main island. The Dutch title translates as, "Representation of the very famous island of Mad-head, lying in the sea of shares, discovered by Mr. Law-rens, and inhabited by a collection of all kinds of people, to whom are given the general name shareholders." Size (7.5 x 5.6"). The map is accompanied by an additional sheet with an engraved view of the Mississippi River and four similar vignettes showing investors devastated by the scheme. Dutch text below. Size (9 x 6.2").
References: Mapforum.com Issue #5.
A few light spots with some stains and tears in blank margins, not affecting images.