Joseph de la Vega
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José, Josseph or Joseph Penso de la Vega, best known as Josseph de la Vega (ca.1650, Espejo, Spain — November 13, 1692, Amsterdam, Netherlands), was a successful Jewish merchant, poet, and philanthropist residing in 17th century Amsterdam. He became famous for his masterpiece Confusion of Confusions, the oldest book ever written on the stock exchange business.
Joseph was born about 1650 in Espejo, a small town in Córdoba province (Andalusia, Spain), into a family of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. He was the son of Isaac Penso Félix and of Esther de la Vega, whose family name he assumed, and who was a relative of the Vegas that founded a Talmudic school in Livorno. His father was a Marrano, who had made a solemn vow in the dungeon of the Inquisition that within a year after regaining his liberty he would openly profess Judaism. This oath he fulfilled in Middelburg after his escape to Antwerp. Isaac, from the time of his marriage until his death, which occurred in February, 1683, distributed 80,000 gulden as tithes from his profits. Penso had four brothers: Abraham, the eldest, who was charitable like his father; Joseph, David, and Raphael, who lived in London.
Joseph went while still young to Amsterdam, where he was taught by Isaac Aboab da Fonseca and Moses Raphael de Aguilar. When in his eighteenth year he completed his first Hebrew drama, "Asire ha-Tiḳwah" ("Pardes Shoshannim"), in three acts, which appeared in Amsterdam in 1673 (2d ed., Leghorn, 1770), and in which he allegorically depicted the victory of the will over the passions. He became a respected merchant and an elegant Spanish poet, and filled the honorary offices of president of the Academia de los Sitibundos and secretary of the Academia de los Floridos, founded by Manuel de Belmonte. Penso wrote over 200 letters to different princes and statesmen, and was a prolific author, "the marvel of the academies, who made his work proof against criticism by presenting his subject in ordered form; delicate in his sentiments and of true refinement", as De Barrios ("Arbol de las Vidas", p. 90) characterizes him.
Confusion of Confusions (1688)
Although not a descriptive account of the process of stock trading, Penso presented the history of speculation in stocks and acquainted the reader with the sophisticated financial instruments used. The dialogue format allowed the reader to understand the respective perspectives of the various market participants and the intricacies of speculation and trading.
Penso also came up with four basic rules of the share market that are still of the greatest relevance today:
The first rule in speculation is: Never advise anyone to buy or sell shares. Where guessing correctly is a form of witchcraft, counsel cannot be put on airs.
The second rule: Accept both your profits and regrets. It is best to seize what comes to hand when it comes, and not expect that your good fortune and the favorable circumstances will last.
The third rule: Profit in the share market is goblin treasure: at one moment, it is carbuncles, the next it is coal; one moment diamonds, and the next pebbles. Sometimes, they are the tears that Aurora leaves on the sweet morning's grass, at other times, they are just tears.
The fourth rule: He who wishes to become rich from this game must have both money and patience.
In his honour, the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) awards since 2000 the annual De La Vega Prize to "young European researchers who distinguish themselves by outstanding research on the securities markets in Europe".
Other of his works include:
- Discurso académico moral. Hecho en la Insigne Academia de los Sitibundos (Amsterdam, 1683; dedicated to Isaac Senior Texeira in Hamburg).
- Triunfos del águila y eclipses de la luna (ib. 1683).
- La Rosa, Panegírico Sacro, Hecho en la Insigne Academia de los Sitibundos (ib. 1683).
- Rumbos peligrosos por donde navega con título de novelas la zozobrante nave de la temeridad (Antwerp, 1684).
- Discursos académicos, morales, retóricos, y sagrados. Recitados en la Florida Academia de los Floridos (ib. 1685).
- Retrato de la Prudencia, y simulacro del Valor, al Augusto Monarca Guilielmo Tercero, Rey de la Gran Bretaña (ib. 1690).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906. The article there was written by Isidore Singer and Meyer Kayserling