"Afbeeldinge van 't Zeer Vermaarde Eiland Geks-Kop…", Anon.
Subject: Cartographic Curiosities
Period: 1720 (circa)
Publication: Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid…
Color: Black & White
9 x 6.5 inches
22.9 x 16.5 cm
This satirical engraving is from the important account of one the most infamous financial meltdowns in history, known as the Mississippi Bubble incident. 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 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." There are two columns of verses in Dutch below the scene.
John Law, a Scottish financier, established the Banque Generale (central bank) in France. He was then granted control of Louisiana and founded the Compagnie de la Louisiane d'Occident, in 1717. Law developed an elaborate plan to exploit the fabulous resources of the region, which quickly gained popularity and people rushed to invest, not just in France, but throughout Europe. This resulted in the development of several other overseas companies, such as the English South Sea Company and a number of smaller companies in the Dutch Republic. The share prices rose dramatically in a frenzy of speculation. In 1720 the bubble burst; speculators cashed in, caused a run on the shares, and the company went bankrupt. As a consequence of the failure, confidence in other similar companies failed, and thousands of individual investors across Europe were ruined.
References: Mapforum.com Issue #5.