top banner

Buursterlaan 6
the Netherlands

phone: +31 516 491 887

Please visit our page on
Luca Pacioli
Statue of LUCA PACIOLI Sansepolcro. 1995 erected by:
"I concittadini e Le Scuole de Ragioneria in Jappone".
Luca Pacioli

Press Release
April 10, 1998

Rewriting the History of Accounting?

Recently discovered early 15th Century Venetian Bookkeeping Instructions

A few months ago drs. Johanna Postma and drs. A. J. van der Helm discovered a third manuscript, dated 1475, of Benedetto COTRUGLI's "LIBRO DE L'ARTE DE LA MERCATURA" in the National Library of Malta, Vallette (copyist was Marino de Raphaeli de Ragusa). This manuscript is nine years older than the oldest previously known (copyist was Strozzi, 1484).

The text of this manuscript is followed by an "appendix", in the same handwriting, which is even more important. Starting with some instruction, it contains an inventory and 266 journal entries, all dated Neapoli 1475.

The themes are very realistic: all kinds of trade with taxes, brokerage and other costs, "Camera d'Imprestedi", partnerships, letters of exchange, commercial voyages (to one's own account, to the account of the partnership or commissioned to someone else) to Beirut, Alexandria and Spain, ship insurance, silk industry (from cocoons bought to silk sold), building houses, let and rent of houses, barter (corn for slaves for example). Between groups of journal entries are more instructions.

The form and contents of the journal entries are typically Venetian. All can probably be dated to the first half of the 15th century. Several of the names are found in the famous ledgers of Badoer and Barbarigo too. There is a "Banco de Soranzi" which failed in 1453. Some of the journal entries in the text have calculation errors while the amount (in a different kind of money) in the money column is correct. Errors of the copyist?

This "appendix" is the oldest collection of journal entries in a text book for merchants known today.

The manuscript and the "appendix" were presented for the first time ever on April 4, 1998 at the "First Portuguese Accounting Historians Congress" in Coimbria, Portugal.

At the 8th World Congress of Accounting Historians, Madrid, Spain, July 19 through 21, 2000, Postma and Van der Helm presented a paper "La Riegola de Libro. Bookkeeping Instructions from the Mid-Fifteenth Century" discussing the instructions. The paper was published in "Accounting and History", a selection of papers presented at the conference.

They are preparing an edition of the "appendix" together with a transcription and an English translation.

drs. Johanna Postma & drs. Anne J. van der Helm.

last updated: October 23, 2004