|[ANONYMOUS / Henri Abraham CHATELAIN ?]
AFBEELDINGHE van't zeer vermaerde Eiland GEKS-KOP. geligen in de Actie-ze, ontdekt door Mons.r Lau-rens, werende bewoond door een verzameling van alderhande Volkeren. die men dezen generalen Naam (Actionisten) geest.
[L'Honore & Chatelain, Amsterdam, 1720]
From: [Anonymous] 'Het Groote Tafereel der Dwassheid ...' (The Great Mirror of Folly)
Copperplate engraving, image 160 x 225mm.
One of the most famous cartographic curiosities, this engraving is a satire on the collapse of the French Compagnie d'Occident, and similar English and Dutch companies.
The Compagnie de la Louisiane ou d'Occident was established in August 1717 by John Law, a Scottish financial genius. The Compagnie was granted control of Louisiana. The Company's plans to exploit the resources of the region - the 'Mississippi Scheme' - captured the popular imagination. Believing that the region was a source of limitless wealth, people rushed to invest. Share prices opened at 500 livres, but rapidly rose to 18,000 livres. At this point, speculators indulged in profit-taking, causing a run on the shares. Confidence collapsed, causing a run on the company's capital and the company went bankrupt. Many individuals were ruined, not only in France, but throughout Europe.
As a consequence of the failure of the Mississippi Scheme, confidence in other similar schemes failed, including the English South Sea Company collapsed, as did a number of smaller Dutch companies. The general term 'Bubbles' was applied to such schemes where promises proved illusory, burst by the pin of reality.
The background to the affair is described more fully elsewhere in this issue.
This fine engraving is comprised of punning references to these 'Bubbles', in particular emphasising the consequences for the hapless investors, who bore the brunt of the failure, and yet emphasising their greed and foolishness in believing the wild promises made on behalf of the various companies.
The 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 island of Madhead:
a man's head, wearing a fool's cap, with bell, but with the ears of a jackass
Principal names within the map:
| Outside the map itself are two larger and two smaller scenes.
British Museum, Catalogue of Prints and Drawings In The British Museum. Division I Political And Personal Satires, vol.II (London, British Museum. 1873), p.541-543