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In which John takes you to Amsterdam to discuss the tulip mania that overtook the Netherlands in the 17th century, culminating with the famed flower bubble of 1636 and 1637, the original irrational exuberance. (Or was it irrational?)

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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank; it's Wednesday. That's not a green-screen, I'm really in Amsterdam. So Hank I'm here in Amsterdam for two months finishing my new book. The reason I'm in Amsterdam will become obvious when you read the book. Also the Yeti needs to be in Europe because she's working on the U.F. pavilion for the Venice Biennale, very fancy. And so every body has a reason to be here – say “Hello” to the tram – except for Henry, but, you know, he's portable. By the way just to orient you, we're going to the flower market. Right Hank, so back in the early sixteen-hundreds, when tulips first came to Holland, they were prized for the richness of their color. But there were these multi-colored ones that were particularly beloved. So most tulips look like the tulips you're used to seeing, like these. But there were these rare and fragile and sickly looking bulbs that made beautiful tulips, like the Viceroy. More on him in a second. Right, so, throughout the first half of the 1630s – don't worry, this is not going to hit me – the price of tulips rose pretty steadily, and by the winter of 1636, Hank, the Dutch had become total tulip maniacs. Particularly for those sickly-looking bulbs that made brilliant flowers, like the aforementioned Viceroy. For the amount of money a single Viceroy bulb cost in 1637 you could have bought all of this. I mean, Hank, forget the rye and the fat oxen. I think I could live happily ever after with just a suit of clothes, a complete bed, and 4000 pounds of butter. That comment probably didn't make sense to the people standing behind me. And then in 1637, pretty much all at once, the market for tulip bulbs completely collapsed, falling like 99% in two months. It was one of the first great bubbles of capitalism, Hank, but that's not what fascinates me, here's what fascinates me. Those fragile-looking bulbs that made brilliant flowers like the Viceroy, it turns out they were sick with a virus called the tulip mosaic virus. They've all long since died out, and while we can look at paintings, we will never know quite what it felt like to see the Viceroy. I first heard of tulip mania in Atlas by Katrina Vandenberg, this brilliant book of poems that has shaped my think a lot while writing this new book. Here's how she put it, "Aren't you sorry you will never see a tulip that would make you offer all you own for the layered, translucent promise in its brown paper wrapper?" Hank, I'll see you on Friday.