Pacioli’s pioneering accounting book sold at auction for $1.2M

Luca Pacioli’s groundbreaking text on bookkeeping, accounting and mathematics, Somma di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalità, also known as the Summa de Arithmetica, sold for $1,215,000 at an auction Wednesday at Christie’s in New York.

Portrait of Fra Luca Pacioli

Pacioli, who lived from around 1445 to 1517, was a friend of Leonardo da Vinci’s who wrote the influential book that described for the first time the double-entry bookkeeping method. Known as the "Venetian Method," it was being used by some of the merchants in Renaissance Venice, but Pacioli's text spread the concept far and wide and it formed the basis of modern business management. The 616-page book was published in 1494. The first edition that was auctioned by Christie’s is one of only 162 copies now in existence, according to Financial Management magazine. According to Christie's, it's one of only three complete copies that have been recorded at auction in more than 50 years.

“Although double-entry bookkeeping had been known in Italy since at least the 13th century, Pacioli provides its first description in print in any language in book 9 of the Somma, entitled Particularis de computis et scripturis (‘Details of Accounting and Recording’)," said the description on the Christie’s website. “In addition to eschewing the Latin of the scholastics in favor of the Italian of the merchants, Pacioli provides a remarkably clear and concise guide to succeeding in business. In outlining how to maintain account books, he gives examples and templates with easy-to-remember adages and even quotations from Dante.”

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