Dear Gentle Reader,
I assume that you know about the tulip craze of the early seventeenth century in the Netherlands.
And of the speculative tulip bubble that came to a crash in the start of 1637.
Tulips, fresh from the Ottoman Empire, were relative novelties in the Netherlands which, itself, had become a booming commercial empire on the back of its East India Company.
The Dutch were now the high rollers of Europe with money to spend.
Just as the Dutch are notorious, today, for their red light districts and the hothouse flowers contained in those red lit boxes, in the 1630s the Dutch were also known to love to get down and dirty for a pretty flower...
At the peak of tulip mania, the tulip bulb asset bubble, a Semper Augustus tulip bulb holder (there were two bulbs in existence) was offered 12 acres of land (49,000 square meters), in land poor The Netherlands, for a single tulip bulb--albeit 50 percent of the global supply.
That offer was deemed unworthy.
Tulips were new, novel, and there were many nouveau riche Dutch in the seventeenth century.
The Netherlands had only started cultivating tulips after 1593 when the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire shipped some bulbs over to a botanist in the Netherlands.
As an aside, the Flemish botanist who developed the art of cultivating tulips in the Netherlands did so at the University of Leiden.
The University of Leiden was very well-funded in its day, and has continued to produce many notable scholars. The University of Leiden is also the official seat, or base, of the notorious Bilderberg Group... Aside over.
Tulips were intensely coloured and, and this is the kicker, they were not only new, but they had built in scarcity--remember, there were only two Semper Augustus bulbs in existence in 1637.
The tulip propagation cycle could take seven to twelve years... so the novel hybrids being produced, or being found, took a very long time to be reproduced.
Further, some flowers, like the Semper Augustus, shown above, had jagged flashes of wild colour... ...And no one knew how to breed that into the tulip.
The catch was that you couldn't breed that variant into the tulip; it wasn't possible. But, nobody knew that, and, rarely, they would still get these phenomenally valuable variants.
Those jagged stripes of flaming colour, however, were not due to breeding.
Those jags were the symptoms of a viral infection, a botanical mosaic virus infection, that was specific to tulips.
But, as viruses were not discovered until 1898, and the 1630s preceded this by a bit, replication was hit and miss; mostly miss.
(I don't mean to suggest that the lack of knowledge of viruses impeded the effects of viruses. Flat earthers are still pulled upon by gravity, and don't fall off the world when they walk beyond the horizon.)
(But, a lack of understanding, or even knowledge, of the viral transmission mechanism responsible for the special tulips' 'jaggy' colouration made it difficult to work out how to replicate the effect.)
(Further, as the tulips were not native to the Netherlands, and the virus was not endemic in the Netherlands, there was much less chance for random infections--and the tulips were so precious that they were closely guarded and kept quite safe, and separate from viruses like the one below.)
As another aside, viruses were, later, to be discovered by another Dutchman, Martinus Beijerinck (1851-1931) who was a botanical agronomist. Beijerinck was to become the father of virology, although, as he worked solely on plants, he was overshadowed in the popular imagination, and in popular historical memory, by both Koch and Pasteur. Aside over.
With great sums at stake over these tulip bulbs, great efforts, and sums, were then extended to make greater and greater sums by breeding the tulips... genetic manipulation.
It wasn't called genetic manipulation, of course.
That would have to wait for that Augustinian monk, and data fudger, Gregor Mendel (1822-1884).
But, everyone knew that people were messing around with life to produce new results...
And then, as now, in the genetically modified organism debate, some people worried about the consequences of 'messing with nature'.
Today, I give you a second glimpse of Andrew Marvell and his bombastic screeds.
Please note that I love Marvell, but most folks grow up knowing him solely as a very gifted pick-up artist, like John Donne in his younger years.
These posts hope to point out that Andrew Marvell was so much more, although political bombast can also be seen as so much less...
Here is a metaphysical poke at Gardens, by the mower, and a bit of a rant about those who mess with nature... ...and at excess, financial and otherwise. Finally, historically, everyone who read this knew this was also a political and nationalistic 'go' or 'dig' at the Dutch, just like that poem by Marvell which I gave you one week ago.
The Mower Against Gardens
by Andrew Marvell
The Mower Against GardensLuxurious Man, to bring his Vice in use,Did after him the World seduce:And from the Fields the Flow'rs and Plants allure,Where Nature was most plain and pure.He first enclos'd within the Gardens squareA dead and standing pool of Air:And a more luscious Earth for them did knead,Which stupifi'd them while it fed.The Pink grew then as double as his Mind;The nutriment did change the kind.With strange perfumes he did the Roses taint.And Flow'rs themselves were taught to paint.The Tulip, white, did for complexion seek;And learn'd to interline its cheek:Its Onion root they then so high did hold,That one was for a Meadow sold.Another World was search'd, though Oceans new,To find the Marvel Of Peru.And yet these Rarities might be allow'd,To Man, that Sov'raign thing and proud;Had he not dealt between the Bark and Tree,Forbidden mixtures there to see.No Plant now knew the Stock from which it came;He grafts upon the Wild the Tame:That the uncertain and adult'rate fruitMight put the Palate in dispute.His green Seraglio has its Eunuchs too;Lest any Tyrant him out-doe.And in the Cherry he does Nature vex,To procreate without a Sex.'Tis all enforc'd; the Fountain and the Grot;While the sweet Fields do lye forgot:Where willing Nature does to all dispenceA wild and fragrant Innocence:And Fauns and Faryes do the Meadows till,More by their presence then their skill.Their Statues polish'd by some ancient hand,May to adorn the Gardens stand:But howso'ere the Figures do excel,The Gods themselves with us do dwell.
With great affection from your humble scribe...
So music, to go with today.
The first pokes fun at ideological rants, here focusing on the American political far right (and of course bombast is present on the left, as well) in modern USA.
I think the song is great fun.
The second song is a sop to possibly injured Dutch feelings, although also American in origin. It leaves me smiling every time I hear it. OK. 5 am in Amsterdam, from the same album, might have been more closely linked, and more direct, but "Steppin Out" was inspired by the time that Michelle Shocked spent in pirate, sorry, non-commercial, radio in Amsterdam...
I will hold back with the incomparable Louis Davids, De Grote Kleine Man, for another day...
Click to hear 'Condoleezza, Check My Posse' by The Majestic Twelve