Auction 112, Lot 60

"[Lot of 3] Afbeeldinge van 't zeer vermaarde Eiland Geks-Kop… [with] Koning en Koningen van de Missisippi [and] Nieuwe Volkplanting om wind", Anon.

Subject: Cartographic Curiosity

Period: 1720 (circa)

Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid …

Color: Hand Color

See Description

This lot of engravings illustrate the Mississippi Bubble and includes one of the most famous cartographic curiosities. The collapse of the French Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, and similar English and Dutch companies, resulted in one of the most notorious financial debacles in history. 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 map shows the allegorical island of Madhead in the shape of a man's head with the ears of a jackass, wearing a fool's cap. The islands of Poverty, Sorrow, and Despair surround the main island. The engraving is filled with puns referring to the greed and foolishness of the speculators and investors. The map is contained in an elaborately engraved cartouche surrounded by scenes of ill-fated investors. 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") with two columns of Dutch text below. The map is accompanied by two engravings; first showing a native Louisiana family (6.7 x 10") and second is an engraved view of the Mississippi River and four similar vignettes showing investors devastated by the scheme with Dutch text below (9 x 6.2").

References: Issue #5.

Condition: A

Light foxing in blank margins.

Estimate: $550 - $650

Sold for: $400

Closed on 9/28/2005