PEAT, MARWICK, MITCHELL & CO.
DIGGING IN BOSTON'S ACCOUNTING DUMPS
Snoopy is my favorite cartoon character, and I finally figured out why. It is those crazy fantasies he has about himself as a World War I aviator, constantly foiled by the Red Baron. I can relate to Snoopy in this respect, but not as an aviator. I see myself as an archaeologist. I'm the guy shovelling the dirt when Schliemann un-covered Troy, or trundling the wheelbarrow when Woolley laid bare Ur of the Chaldees. My biggest moment, though, was holding the lamp when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen's tomb!
However, my ancient Greek is limited to reciting the alphabet, and the nearest I come to Egyptian hieroglyphics is doodling on my pad at accounting seminars. So the usual avenues to digging up the past are probably not suited to my talents. It occurred to me, however, that I have a smattering of accounting and daily walk the hallowed paths of Boston, which has a venerable history—as history in America goes. So, some years ago, I decided to indulge my fan-tasies and dig in Boston's accounting dumps.
I got off to a good start by discovering in the library of the Massa-chusetts Society of CPA's an unread copy of the privately sub-scribed translation of Pacioli's Suma de Arithmetica (1494) com-missioned by the British Institute of Bookkeepers in 1924. I think fate took a hand in this, because I found the name of Alexander Brown Bell listed in the back of the table of subscribers. "A. B." Bell taught me most of what I know of accounting back in Glasgow in the 1930's, and I could almost hear him urging me on with his favorite Latin tag—"Carpe diem!" which I believe translates loosely into—"Grab each day by the tail, buster!"
Every accountant should read Pacioli—if only to learn how to ac-count for foreign exchange. However, old American textbooks were what I felt I should read, and thanks to Harry Bentley, there is a splendid collection of these, which he donated in the late 1920's, in the Boston Public Library. They are available in the Rare Book Room in the old Library building in Copley Square. I spent many happy lunch-times browsing through the collection about three sum-