In the entire world, 43 tulip books are known to exist. They are all manuscripts, made by
different illustrators, and therefore unique.
Of these books, 34 were made in the Netherlands during the first half of the seventeenth
century. This period saw a rapid development of the range of cultivated tulip varieties.
'Broken' tulips, showing a flame pattern, were all the rage. We now know that these
patterns were the result of a viral infection. Speculation rose in the year 1637 to an extent
that bulbs were sold faster than they could grow.
Prices spiraled to a ridiculous level for bulbs of which neither buyer nor seller had seen the
flower. This tulipomania got out of hand so badly that bulb growers themselves asked the
government to ban the trade.
The Special Collections of Wageningen UR Library has one of the
rarest of these tulip books. The tulip book of nurseryman P. Cos of Haarlem is a manuscript
nursery catalogue of tulips and a small number of other flowers, published in 1637. In
comparison with other tulip books, this one is special because not only their names are
mentioned, but also their weight and the price for which each bulb was sold.