1609 c/o Chantel Louise Tattoli

Because of Him, the Tulip Boom

His name is Charles de l’Écluse. Most know it in Latin, science’s language, so anyone can identify him like they do a flower, maybe one of his flowers. Carolus Clusius.

During parts of the year, the reason you see large tracts of color when you fly over the Netherlands is him. A bright quilt of red, yellow, orange, white, pinks, and purples, so if the plane went down it wouldn’t be that bad—just a white bird folded in and suffocated. That’s all. Color rushing up, then nothing.

The Ambassador to Constantinople is a friend. He brings Carolus the bulbs because what do you give a horticulturalist? Flowers, flowers! It is 1593 in Leiden.

Carolus spins one in his palm like a wooden top and wants to know about sketches. Are there any sketches?

The ambassador shrugs. Tulip from the Turkish for turban. He’ll see.

Carolus grows them and gives them away and it is his greatest failure to love the plants more than the women he gives them to. That’s what they say. But honestly, some women just want the flowers. They have their servants sell them on the sly—thus they unburden debts, those clever women.

Carolus lives in a glass house with warm breath. In there he discovers a tulip-specific virus which “breaks” petals. He doesn’t know what it is exactly, but he likes this effect, like someone has stirred in cream. Flamed feathered whited. He believes people will like these.

And they will. Decades later they will in fact go mad from tulipmania. Carolus won’t be around to see it. When tulips drop out people's mouths. When you are somebody if you have some. Nobody if you have none.

Believe the first economic bubble on record. It speculates in unborn flowers from a loamy belly. Sold before you can even see the head.

Their price will rise from the middle of November 1636. And in February. One bulb? It is costing the yearly income of most men. Then up goes down and the bulbs fall. Fast to the price of onions and by May of that year, done.

When Carolus dies in 1609 his students cold-shoulder the understood meanings of colors. Each of them—picking their favorite color tulip (Carolus loved them all) and resting it at his tomb—can you see that? At least one poor boy steals expensive flowers for one poor girl, and those boys don’t know it, but the dead man would’ve been okay with that.