Catalog Archive
Auction 125, Lot 63

"[Lot of 2] Afbeeldinge van 't zeer vermaarde Eiland Geks-Kop. [and] Nieuwe Volkplanting om wind", Anon.

Subject: Cartographic Miscellany

Period: 1720 (circa)

Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid …

Color: Hand Color

See Description
Download High Resolution Image
(or just click on image to launch the Zoom viewer)

This satirical engraving 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 (now known as the Mississippi Bubble) - 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 (9 x 6.3") 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 islands of Poverty, Sorrow, and Despair surround the main island. The Dutch title translates, "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." The map is accompanied by an additional sheet with an engraved view (7.5 x 5.7") of the Mississippi River and four similar vignettes showing investors devastated by the scheme. Dutch text below.

References: Issue #5.

Condition: A+

Estimate: $700 - $850

Sold for: $1,000

Closed on 9/24/2008