Anna B. G. Dunlop SCOTTISH COMMITTEE ON ACCOUNTING HISTORY
THE PRESERVATION OF SOURCE MATERIALS*
A copy of De Morgan's Arithmetical books from the invention of printing to the present time dated 1847 in the Antiquarian Collec-tion of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland contains the passage: "The most worthless book of a bygone age is a record worthy of preservation. Like a telescopic star, its obscurity may render it unavailable for most purposes; but it serves, in hands which know how to use it, to determine the places of more im-portant bodies."
Although the number of books published since then has made us more selective today, there is still a lot of truth in that comment. All types of accounting records are potential sources of economic and accounting history. Each type (manuscripts, company records and statements, and published books) has value and should be carefully preserved.
Manuscript accounting material may have considerable side-value, for social or political history. As R. Waldron said recently in his article, "The Necessity of Preserving Accounting Records":
"Accountants . . . are . . . the diarists of their time".
Old manuscript accounts may also aid language studies. A strik-ing example of this was a Scots tailor's MS account book dated 1629 in the Scottish Institute's Antiquarian Collection. This was lent for several months to the staff of the Scottish National Diction-ary of the old Scots language, at Edinburgh University. At that time the dictionary project had been going for 30 years; yet this book yielded 200 more "new" old words: it was full of tailors' jargon.
*Based upon a paper delivered at the Second World Congress of Accounting Historians.