The South Sea Bubble Cards Continued

I have wanted these cards for many years and finally managed to buy a copy. They are a bit musty so I am airing them out for a few weeks. This facsimile of a deck of cards from 1720 is printed on heavy cardstock much like watercolour paper–I love cards that are printed that way, they are a rare treat in my collection.

This is a screen shot from my card database showing the information and my scan of the cards opened up. (Click to enlarge)

As I mention in the write-up in my database, I became aware of these cards from reading a facsimile of the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay that was printed in 1841 and is still in print. He has chapters on several economic bubbles which are still salient today with our global economic woes. As always in history, someone did it before, that’s what makes it fascinating.

Some of the cards are a bit hard to decipher if you don’t know which particular investment “opportunity” they refer to, but here are three samples from this particular deck. Mackay cites these three cards specifically in the book, but his are from the second pack of these cards, published by the same publisher on the subject but different, and thus they have different verses and drawings. The spelling is often not as we would spell things today but I have refrained from typing [sic] after every instance of weird spelling.

EIGHT OF SPADES

This shows a downcast woman holding a banner that says “Oh fatal Blow to loose at once what through Artfull Charms I’ve got these many Years — Undone, Undone!”

And the accompanying verse is:

A Broker went to let a Lady know,
That South Sea Stock was falling very low;
Says she, then what I gain in my good Calling —
By rising things, I find I loose by falling.

A subtle reference I believe to prostitution, and how she lost all the money that she earned for getting men to rise (get an erection) by investing in South Sea stock which fell. Alas. Good to know the 18th century had humour as well as economic bubbles.

NINE OF HEARTS

A Merchant Lurd, of late in reputation,
But Bilk’d by Stocks like Thousands in the Nation
Goes to the Mint, his bad succes Bemoaning,
To shun his Ruin, saves himself by Breaking.

The kid is saying “Don’t cry Mamma” and the husband is saying “Stock has brought me hither can you let me have a Lodging” The man on the left is saying “Ah Tom what a this side y Water,” meaning something like, “What brings you to this side of the water Tom?” He could also be saying “What about this side of the water” indicating what lodging the man can have. He could also be referring to the tears or water that the wife is dropping everywhere and what all this side/sight of water is about. Or perhaps it’s a play on words and means all? I think anyway.

EIGHT OF DIAMONDS

On the left he says: “Ay right, but the Saying is my Son get Money” and on the right: “Sr. never leave the Flock for Bookselling, nor Bookselling for Stock Jobbing.”

The verse:

A certain Non-Con Teacher growing Poor,
Forsook his Pulpit, and turned Bookseller;
Failing in that, he Jobb’d a while in Stock,
But now again Instructs a tatter’d Flock.

The non-con reference I think means “non-conformist” and might refer to Unitarians, who had what they called Non-Con Clubs. Unitarians do not believe in the trinity, a radical, non-conformist view in those times. Not only a rebel Protestant turned bookseller, but a stock market speculator!

Zounds.

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