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José de la Vega, whose real name was Joseph Penso de la Vega Pasariño, was a Jewish merchant and writer. He was born in Espejo (Córdoba) around 1650, probably, into a Jewish  family from Portugal or Galicia. One of many new Christians families that converted in Spain. He successfully engaged in trade and finances, though, he was also a fine author. 

His father Isaac was apprehended by the Inquisition an for a year remained in its custody, after which he resumed his religious beliefs. For that reason, he left Spain and went to Antwerp, then Hamburg and finally Amsterdam. José de la Vega lived in Livorno (Italy) for a while and then settled down in Amsterdam where his father led the mighty Sephardi community of the city. Only Spanish Jews were allowed in the community and only Spanish was spoken.

Amsterdam at the time was the economic center of the newly formed Empire. The Dutch East India Company had long issued its first market shares. Negotiations of contracts, options and future exchanges would all take place in Amsterdam. Such was the economic activity it even hosted one of the first known speculative bubbles: the Tulip mania of 1637 which made the Stock market crash the next year. Drawn by this frantic activity, our brother from Córdoba would write a book on it.

Even though he left Spain at an young age, De la Vega writes all of his works in perfect Spanish, there is not a single literary work coming from Spain he doesn't read. Time and distance separate him from his native country but he still feels and writes in Spanish. This undying feeling encouraged him to join several Literary Acadamies, such as the Floridos in which he acted as secretary and popular lecturer. He even founded the Academy of Sitibundos in Lehorn.

“Confusion of Confusions” was the only book he wrote with an economic theme. It is also the first book to approach Stock market transactions. The book was published in Amsterdam in 1688, in Spanish. It is written like a dialog between “a witty philosopher, a discrete merchant and a learned stockholder describing the Stock exchange business, its origin, etymology, reality, game and entanglement”, as the title states.

Since 2000 the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) awards the Josspeh de la Vega prize to honor the famous author from Córdoba.

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“Three reasons had my wit to write this Dialogues which I expect them to prove themselves curious. The first one, shall entertain our leisure with a delight or two that will not insult modesty. The second one, shall describe (to those who engage in it) the most real and useful business there is nowadays in Europe. And the third one shall show without deception the guiles with which cheaters carry themselves, so some can make of it a treat, others a warning and many a chastisement.”

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The 4 rules to invest that José de la Vega proclaimed were:

Rule nº 1: Never advise anyone to buy or sell shares. Where guessing correctly is a form of witchcraft, counsel cannot be put on airs.

Rule nº2: 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.

Rule nº3: 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.

Rule nº4: He who wishes to become rich from this game must have both money and patience.


Read the whole book in modern Spanish here. It also contains a vast biography to better understand this interesting yet quite unknown Córdoba-born author.

 

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