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DOUBLE ENTRY by Jane Gleeson-White

DOUBLE ENTRY

How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance

By Jane Gleeson-White

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-08896-0
Publisher: Norton

Gleeson-White (Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebration Works, 2007, etc.) finds the origins of double-entry bookkeeping in Renaissance mathematics and art.

The author covers a broad historical sweep, from ancient Mesopotamia and Hammurabi’s Code to the accounting disasters and financial collapses represented by Enron and the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose books were nowhere near adequate representations of the company's position. But Gleeson-White centers the narrative on the convergence of the modern history of mathematics, great art and artists and business organization. She focuses on a relation of influence between Fibonacci, discoverer of the eponymous series, and Luca Pacioli, geometer, mathematical researcher and collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci. Pacioli was the author of a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping, which was published in his Summa on mathematics in 1494. His system discussed the proper use of three related volumes of records wherein initial entries, journaling and ledger entries were formulated. Profit and loss were calculable in detail by account. Gleeson-White names this Venetian accounting, distinguishing herself from others who attribute the system to Florentines. She presents Pacioli's system as the basis for manufacturers' efforts to reconcile the double-entry system, which was based on trade, with industrial manufacturing and the production of new wealth rather than the exchange of existing products. The author maintains that the origins of capitalism are tightly intertwined with the development of double-entry bookkeeping, and that joint-stock companies and dividend payments are spinoffs.

A stimulating approach that presents a compelling outline for further detailed review.