Kenneth O. Elvik, Editor IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
. Silver, Publishing in Boston, 1726-57, The Accounts of Daniel Henchman (Charlottsville, Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1976, 21 pp. paper, $3.00)
Reviewed by William Holmes Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co.
The accounting historian looking at old accounts has the advan-tage of two points of view. On the one hand, he is interested in the level of accounting techniques employed, and hopeful in this re-gard of finding something unique or ahead of its time; on the other hand he is looking at the content of the accounts, searching for information that will add to knowledge of contemporary social and business practices. If he is very lucky, he may on occasion find both.
Publishing in Boston, 1726-57, The Accounts of Daniel Henchman offers no sophisticated accounting techniques; or at least not di-rectly so. However, it is an excellent example of extracting the last drop of useful information from a few simple accounts and putting it to work to portray the daily round of a busy Colonial publisher in his dealings with his paper manufacturers, printers, and book-binders. We see him grappling with cost and break-even problems, with setting rational mark-on margins during periods of severe in-flation, and with a chronic shortage of ready cash. It all sounds vaguely similar to something we read in last week's Business Week or Barrons. Business acumen is obviously not the prerogative of the 20th Century.
All in all, a fascinating glimpse of an early Colonial businessman.
New England is a goldmine of such records tucked away in state and town archives, in museums, and local historical societies, for the most part untouched by accounting historians. We badly need some latter day accounting "forty-niners" to carry on the good work and do a lot of digging. Mr. Silver has shown what can be done.