A reckless mania for the purchase of tulip-bulbs in the seventeenth century. Beckmann says it rose to its greatest height in the years 1634-1637. A root of the species called Viceroy sold for 250; Semper Augustus, more than double that sum. The tulips were grown in Holland, but the mania which spread over Europe was a mere stock-jobbing speculation.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894