Each of the 104 pages in Nicolaes Tulp’s book of tulips contains a watercolour painted by the artist Jacob Marrel, with a record of the market values of the bulbs at the height of 17th-century tulip mania, the world’s first speculation bubble.
The catalogue bears testament to a period in the 1630s when the Netherlands was the richest country in the world and single tulip bulbs would sell for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled worker. However, the market crashed dramatically in 1637.
Four centuries on, market forces have had their way again. The catalogue, now valued at €750,000 by Sotheby’s, faces being sold abroad to the highest bidder by one of Tulp’s descendants, unless a crowdfunding appeal aimed at saving it for the Dutch nation manages to attract sufficient funds.
To block the plan to sell the book abroad, the crowdfunding appeal has been launched by Jan Six van Hillegom X, another descendant of Tulp, who is furious about the move to sell it overseas.
The 72-year-old had taken out a loan to allow…