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Medieval accountancy book to be auctioned

what’s the oldest accounting artefact in your office and how much would you auction it for?

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As reported by the FT last week, Luca Pacioli's 15th-century book that sets out the principles of double-entry went on view at Christie's London this week before it goes under the hammer. The rare medieval book has an estimated price tag of up to $1.5m. 

The Summa de Arithmetica contains everything known at the time about mathematics but also acts as a practical, how-to guide to succeeding in business.

Hearing the news, I wondered whether any AccountingWEB reader is going to shell out the hefty sum for this piece of accounting history? Just think how great it would be as a conversation starter with a new client. And what office would complete without a Pacioli? 

But seeing how much the double-entry tome is going to collect, there is certainly an opportunity here for an enterprising accountant. 

While I am pretty confident you don't have a Pacioli squirrelled away in your office filing cabinets, you must have other treasured accounting artefacts gathering dust. Maybe an old adding machine?  

So in the spirit of Pacioli's compendium, what’s the oldest accounting artefact in your office and how much would you auction it for?

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21st Feb 2019 16:37

We have been having a clear out ahead of moving to new premises, and found some clients books from the 1960's that they still haven't collected. Does that count as an artefact?

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21st Feb 2019 17:01

We had some 1940s tax returns and HMRC letters turn up last week.

Claims for Daughters expenses!!

And the HMRC letter started,

Dear Gentlemen,

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to Kaylee100
21st Feb 2019 17:23

"Gentlemen" is the plural equivalent of "Dear Sir".

"Dear Gentlemen" is simply incorrect.

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to lionofludesch
21st Feb 2019 17:42

Maybe it was just Gentlemen! Ive probably misremembered.

We've kept the file. The business is still trading so we think it might be of interest to the current owners (same family) and the paper tax returns fascinate me.

I also love seeing accounts in old money. I was tiny when decimalisation came in and my parents decided to not teach me old money at all, so its all medieval to me!

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to Kaylee100
21st Feb 2019 18:01

Kaylee100 wrote:

I also love seeing accounts in old money. I was tiny when decimalisation came in and my parents decided to not teach me old money at all, so its all medieval to me!

Old money couldn't be easier.

16 farthings = 1 groat
6 groats = 1 florin
10½ florins = 1 guinea

Much easier than 100 pence = £1

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to Kaylee100
25th Feb 2019 17:31

People complain that HMRC are slow, but this must be a record!

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21st Feb 2019 17:01

Depressingly, me. By 11 years.
Mrs ALISK would say forget auctioning, you’d need to pay someone to take me.

At my first firm, each year between 24-27th March the immaculately handwritten 4 x 6inch think actual ledgers appeared from a family generational business, for the YE 21 March. (The founder wanted it for some reason, no-one since has wanted to upset the ol’mans ghost)

SL, PL, Bank, VAT, NL ... all perfect double entry and T-accounts. Different types of ink and handwriting styles for the different wives that have been keeping the ledgers since 1925.

Does that count?

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21st Feb 2019 17:23

Yes - I will be bidding for this lot.

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By DJKL
21st Feb 2019 17:32

I have some quasi trial balances for my father's law firm from the 1940s (before he was a partner, I hasten to add)
These are heavy weight analysis type paper, they are bound down the side by being stitched together with thread/thin twine, a set maybe has 30 odd pages, they have been folded and are now really hard to open.

On the early sheets there is in effect a detailed client ledger (alphabetic) listing the debit/credit balances of each client, the TB then goes on to more firm account balances like P & L accounts and balance sheet accounts. I guess the firm had ledgers (Client/nominal etc) from which the balances were extracted- some adjustments are made across the TB but I have never really dug into them to work out what was going on, I suspect there is a journal detailing the adjustments but I do not have it.

I also hold the various partnership agreements back to the early part of the 19th century, though not strictly accounting records, plus some of the firm accounts prepared by Peat Marwick in the early 1970s etc

All of the above are kept in a rather nice legal drop front lockable deed box with the firm's name signwritten on the front, though if anyone else has read "Smallbone Deceased" by Michael Gilbert they may, like me, find having it around slightly disconcerting.

Re accounting books I do somewhere have a copy of a book on accounting labelled "Munro" that I think dates from circa 1903 and a Carters Advanced Accounts from 1940s, though think these are somewhere at work in a box together with a circa 1970 Pinsent Revenue Law.

Other than these, and still on bookcase in study, I have:

Tiley, Revenue Law -1981-bought at university

Scots Mercantile Law Statutes-1984- bought at university

Samuels and Wilkes, Management of Company Finance, 1983-bought at university- still use

Scott, Trust Accountancy-1950- bought in 1988 secondhand (when I became a trustee of lots of trusts in place of my father)

Hamilton Baynes-Share Valuations-1973- I chased for a while to get a secondhand copy- still use- we had a copy in the library of the firm I was with unil 1999 and it is worth reading.

Merrett & Sykes-The finance and analysis of capital projects-1962 (still use but rarely)- acquired with my first house in 1985 along with some other accounting books/ICAEW publications that I think are in the boxes at the office

I have a number of company seals (heavy ones that work as bookends) and at work there is an old, lockable , private ledger though we just acquired it, likely we bought a property and found it there, there are also some friendly society ledgers kicking about the office somewhere, again, we will have inherited.

Right now we are in legal deed acquisition mode, with all our properties now registered the original title deeds are in large part lying around the office- I have thought of setting up some display cases in reception re these but they are not really accounting related.

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21st Feb 2019 17:53

Mine only go back to the late 1970s. My Dad's company accounts, I used to do the wages at 15. Plus a big green comptometer my Mum used and was a complete whizz on.

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22nd Feb 2019 10:04

Me and I'm very expensive

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22nd Feb 2019 12:02

My scientific calculator (late 1980s)- saw me through 6th form, degree and accountancy studies Casio fx-82LB. All the numbers are rubbed off so no one but me can use it. I am so attached to it that I searched on ebay to find the a "new" one the same but stupidly bought the wrong model so I am sticking with this one still.

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By DJKL
to accountantccole
22nd Feb 2019 12:42

My Casio FX-39 still works, it was bought in 1978 though strictly initially had nothing to do with accountancy as at the time I was doing a Bsc (never completed) in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering .

It did survive in semi regular use right through the 1980s until replaced by a solar calculator-the cost of all the batteries was crippling especially as I would forget to switch it off.

The small keys were not great so a large keypad machine was purchased at the start of my apprenticeship for every day use ,only for it to be killed at the tube station near Ibrox when my bag of files fell at the turnstile and the files destroyed the calculator

The Casio FX 39 soldiered on as the fall back calculator when I could not find one of my everyday ones,the plastic slide in cover re the battery compartment broke years ago so it now relies on a piece of cardboard and sellotape, but as I type this if I look in the top right drawer of my desk there it sits, still operating after over 40 years, kept company by my 1978 Staedtler compass, and adjustable square (my A3 drawing board is also still around)and my even earlier, circa 1972/73 ,school purchased Thornton slide rule with my initials melted into the back (well with the whole class buying the same one this was necessary) complete with instructions and still in its grey case.

And, no idea if it still works, but my Philips System 500 dictating machine still lies in the drawer unused, it now being twenty years this year since I had a secretary to do my typing.

One other item is also in the drawer, it went nearly everywhere with me back then ,although not strictly accounting related (except re arriving on time and timesheets) ,my 1976 Timex self winding watch which still goes ,has never needed serviced (apart from strap replacement) albeit it now keeps terrible time. (about 2-3 minutes a day lost)

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to DJKL
22nd Feb 2019 15:34

I don't think I have ever changed the batteries in it!
Your house / office must be overflowing with all this stuff

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By DJKL
to accountantccole
22nd Feb 2019 20:05

It is, I need to get rid of the offspring to create more space for all this stuff.

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22nd Feb 2019 12:24

Until a couple of years ago, I still had my Casio scientific calculator (from the early 80s) but it finally gave up the ghost. I've got a new Casio now which I find totally confusing and probably use about 5% of the functionality. Ah, the delights of growing older.

In between training at a large firm and venturing out on my own I cut my general practice teeth at a truly awful country firm. One day there I stumbled across a load of beautifully written (Copperplate) ledgers from the 1920s and 1930s which were their original books of account: they were just randomly lying around in the old records room(ie the cellar).

A few years ago, I inherited a sideboard from my father's office (he was a life assurance consultant, never reconciled himself to being called an IFA). Rooting around in there one day I came across various Companies House forms from the 70s including some weird and wacky ones to do with the Business Names Act and appointment of partners: anyone remember those days?

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By DJKL
22nd Feb 2019 12:58

Another old set of records, in the corner beside my filing units,( currently totally inaccessible) are two box files re a Trust (now long gone) which was created I think in the 1920s, my father had this as his last case, so to speak, as he remained as a non professional trustee ,as did I, after he retired in the 1980s and I acquired the box files when clearing his cottage about six years ago.

I think from memory some of the correspondence goes back a fairly long time, the Trust lasted with a life interest until about 1980 from its circa 1920 inception and the issue was tracking residual beneficiaries.

I do recall that he had hit a blank re tracing one family line and was having to instruct searches in Europe,the UK and Eire before distributing, it all took forever and eventually he had to take out an indemnity policy to cover us before making the final distributions.

I have now determined, with my responses to this thread, one clear fact; I am a hoarder.

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22nd Feb 2019 13:29

Me.

I am open to offers...

Ideally from fit, uber-wealthy widows.

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By foxtrot
22nd Feb 2019 19:37

Annual accounts of a retail partnership in Kent covering the period December 1882 to July 1985 in beautiful copperplate. Their telephone number was " Ashford 2"

Ranking, Spicer and Pegler "Executorship, Law and Accounts 1945

Bigg Wilson and Langton "Book keeping and accounts"

HFL publishers 1959

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26th Feb 2019 14:40

We had a clear out a few years ago. The oldest correspondence we found was dated 1941 and it was a reply to an Inland Revenue investigation letter about a bank account opened in 1928. Amazingly the grandson is still a client.

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26th Feb 2019 16:47

Richard Hattersley wrote:

 what’s the oldest accounting artefact in your office and how much would you auction it for?

Probably accounting web and we probably wouldn't get much for it.

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