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19 June, 2013 / Andrew Read

Debunking Pacioli

Pacioli

Source: Wikipedia

There are many myths about Luca Pacioli.  He has been called the ‘father of accounting’, he had been credited with writing the first book on double-entry bookkeeping and some have claimed that he invented double-entry bookkeeping.  None of this is true.

He wrote the first best-seller that covered double-entry bookkeeping.  His book was published in 1494, 44 years after the development of printing in Europe. An earlier book which did not become a best seller was written in 1458 by Benedetto Contrugli.

The method of bookkeeping Pacioli described had been in use for over 200 years in Italy.  Some authors claim it is even older than that, tracing its ancestry to Chinese, Indian, Arab or African civilisations.

Double-entry bookkeeping was called the ‘Method of Venice’ but its use was not restricted to Venice.  It was being used in other parts of northern Italy including Florence and Genoa prior to 1494.

Pacioli has an important place in accounting history for writing the book that publicised double-entry bookkeeping in Europe which, most likely, led to it forming the basis of contemporary accounting.  However, his role should not be mythologised to make him into something that he is not.

Sources:

Walker, S. P. (2009). Structures, territories and tribes. In Edwards, J. R. & Walker, S. P. (Eds.), The Routledge companion to accounting history (pp. 11-29). London ; New York: Routledge.

Mattessich, R. V. (1998). Review and extension of Bhattacharyya’s Modern Accounting Concepts in Kautilya ‘s Arthaśāstra. Accounting, Business & Financial History, 8(2), 191-209. doi: 10.1080/095852098330512

Sy, A., & Tinker, T. (2006). Bury Pacioli in Africa: a bookkeeper’s reification of accountancy. Abacus, 42(1), 105-127.

Zan, L. (1994). Toward a history of accounting histories. European Accounting Review, 3(2), 255-307.

 

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