This is the famous historical book that shows up regularly in financial arguments. I actually read the thing.

The cover of the copy of this book I read says "If you read no more of this book than the first hundred pages -on money mania- it will be worth many times its purchase." This may be; I’d say it would be worth about what it cost. The rest of the book is a rather long-winded and rambling collection of miscellanea designed to remind the supercilious Victorian how wonderfully clever he was. There are definitely some interesting stories hiding in the dross but not really worth 700 pages of my time. Also, the author creates a real Alchemist Hall of Fame but I was pretty surprised at the omission of the most noteworthy enthusiast of that art, Sir Isaac. Indeed, the alchemists were portrayed as pretty much exclusively wasting their time and not much sympathy was allowed for the fact that this old hobby really did some good things for metallurgy and practical chemistry in general.

Most people, however, hear about this book in the context of insane financial manias. In that section, which really could stand alone as a separate book, the stories were quite interesting as they parallel events that have unfolded in the last ten years with uncanny fidelity.

I was worried when I read on the first page that one of this author’s other fine works was a book called "The Thames and Its Tributaries". Whoa! Fun! And this book definitely had a bit of that kind of excitement level for large chunks of it. Worth reading the beginning or perhaps just as well, the Wikipedia articles on the following topics: Mississippi Company, South Sea Company, and Tulip Mania.

Definitely an interesting book on the whole, just hard — and maybe pointless today — to slog through it all.