De Raphaeli: Venetian double entry bookkeeping in 1475
by Alan Sangster.
De Raphaeli presents a trip back into the life of a 15th century Venetian businessman through the lens of the Rules of bookkeeping. This is the earliest known manual on double entry bookkeeping, predating Pacioli’s de Scripturis by 19 years. Written in 1475 to train the son of a wealthy family in all matters relating to accounting for trade, real-life examples are used throughout of people, transactions, places, commodities, and exchange. Through it the reader is introduced to the nuances of business: the people; the taxes; the dominance in trade of credit and barter; and the focus on determining costs and profits at the level of a consignment, a batch of goods and, in particular, the voyage, with its potentially unkind fate of shipwreck and pirates, and its necessary protection by galley and by insurance.
It is a varied and ever-changing story: from buying and selling to employing agents and acting as an agent from trade to silk manufacture, the construction of a palace, and investment in property and Government bonds; and even making profit from arguably illegal trade in bills of exchange. In short, a typical series of activities for a large-scale wholesale merchant and silk manufacturer living in 15th century Venice.