EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF ACCOUNTING SWEDISH UNIVERSITY
THE RECKONING BOARD AND TALLY STICK*
Two accounting aids of great importance for society in Sweden and Finland during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
In a complete accounting system a distinction should be made between the following functions: proof, entry, control, systematisa-tion and summary. During the same period of time that the art of writing was developed different technical aids to serve one or more of these accounting functions were invented. The most advanced of such aids is the present-day computer. However, let us turn back the clock for a moment and consider two aids of the simplest kind: the reckoning board and the tally stick.
The reckoning board
The reckoning board, also called a memory or hole board, was a board with a number of holes. There were two types of such board. The older type had 100 holes, arranged in 10 rows with 10 holes in each. This type of board was used with one peg which could be inserted into the holes consecutively from top to bottom to count from one to one hundred. The board was used as a memory aid when counting certain units as loads, sacks or barrels. The peg was moved forward one hole for every unit covered. At the end of the day or week it could then be seen how many units had been reckoned. The board was also used to record the number of units completed by workers engaged in piece-work. With the aid of the board a worker could keep a tally of the amount of work done and verify the wages paid to him. The memory board was also used in iron works to keep a record of the number of units received or de-livered, for example, of firewood, ore, chalk, coal or pig iron.
A second type of board was more advanced. The holes were ar-ranged in two or three vertical rows, each with ten holes and with a
* Based on a paper delivered at the Second World Congress of Accounting His-torians, Atlanta, August 1976.