Wouter Winckel, one of my protagonists, actually existed. He lived in the city of Alkmaar and owned the tavern “De Oude Schuttersdoelen” which can be translated as: “The Old Shooter Targets Tavern”, as it was located near a shooting practice area. Besides being inn-keeper, he was a respected tulip merchant. In my book poor Wouter gets murdered, but he probably died of the plague in 1636. When his wife passed away, his seven children were sent to an orphanage. In such situations, the orphanage was entitled to 10% of the inheritance. The auction of Wouter Winckel’s bulbs in February 1637 was initiated by this orphanage.
While happily scrolling along the world wide web doing research for The Tulip Virus, I stumbled upon the authentic list of Wouter Winckel’s auction sale of tulip bulbs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The list is preserved and included in the collection of the library of Wageningen University and Research Centre.
The library of Wageningen also has a beautiful collection of “tulip books”. To promote sales of their tulips, traders often let artists make images of them. The traders used these “tulip books” as a sales catalog. Especially in the period of the tulip trade when only bulbs were sold, the “tulip books” were an easy way for the buyer to see the tulip in full bloom. Of these rare books about twenty survived. Drawings were made by artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert the Younger, Pieter Holstein the Younger and Judith and Jacob Leyster Marelle.
The picture on the cover of my book is the extremely valuable Semper Augustus. It was made by an anonymous Dutch Artist in watercolor, most likely circa 1640.
Daniëlle Hermans, author of The Tulip Virus, works as a freelance communication consultant and lives in Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
IMAGE: List of Wouter Winckel’s auction sale of tulip bulbs