Bookkeeping - Past and Present

Bookkeeping (sometimes misspelled book keeping or bookeeping) is an established practice of financial management throughout the world - both on a personal and business level. But this popular profession of recording financial transactions isn't a modern concept. Bookkeeping actually dates back to 4000 B.C., at which time tokens were used instead of our modern day general ledger.

Through archaeological digs, scientists have discovered clay tablets that were used to record important transactions such as marriage dowries, and the lending and borrowing of money in Assyria and Asia.

Luca Pacioli in the 1400's is credited for writing the first instructional book on the practice of bookkeeping titled "Summe de Arithmetic, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportonality." Pacioli's book had a major impact on the field of mathematics, and was the groundwork of what we consider to be modern bookkeeping. However, prior to the 1400's, Benedetto Corugli wrote a book that outlined a simplistic double entry bookkeeping concept that is still also used today by the modern day bookkeeper (sometimes misspelled book keeper or bookeeper).

Pacioli noted that prudent business practices require a sharp bookkeeper, diligent eye on cash and inventory, and the creation of a "day book", which later became known as a ledger. Pacioli wrote that all things pertaining to business must be recorded in the day book.

The necessities in medieval times that brought about the evolution of bookkeeping included:


  • Property rights and changing ownership
  • Wealth and the existence of credit (present use of future goods)
  • Organized, wide-spread commerce (not just local trading)
  • Recording of facts in a common language
  • Exchange of money (the common denominator of all business transactions)

    Although Bookkeeping (again, sometimes misspelled book keeping or bookeeping) has evolved through the years from clay tablets, to paper ledgers, and now computerized systems, some of the same problems that plagued ancient bookkeepers still exist. Human error tops the list of flaws in most financial systems. Even the most up-to-date computer software can't prevent incorrect transaction entries. A double-entry bookkeeping system will fail is only one entry is made. An employee's paycheck won't be correct if the hours worked weren't properly accounted for.

    The practice of bookkeeping is steeped in history, and by definition bookkeeping is the practice of collecting historical data to be used in analysis and forecasting of business. Even with modern advancement, bookkeeping fundamentals have not been changed through the ages. And chances are the future societies will not be able to exist without a formal system of financial recording keeping.

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