Geoffrey A. Lee SENIOR LECTURER UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM
THE COMING OF AGE OF DOUBLE ENTRY: THE GIOVANNI FAROLFI LEDGER OF 1299-1300
Abstract: This article examines the branch ledger of a Florentine firm in 13th cen-tury Provence, and its relationship to contemporaneous Tuscan account books. It is concluded that the ledger was part of a sophisticated accounting system, with a debit and credit for every item and a serious attempt at annual balancing, thus constituting the earliest known example of commercial double entry.
In previous published papers the author dealt with the earliest evidence of business bookkeeping in Florence—the bank ledger fragments of 1211, transcribed in 1887 by Pietro Santini—and with the development of accounting in Tuscany during the 13th century, as evidenced in the account-books, or extracts therefrom, which constitute the bulk of Arrigo Castellani's Nuovi testi fiorentini del Dugento e dei primi del Trecento (1952). There were traced the gradual standardization of techniques, and incorporation of ele-ments of double entry, within the framework of the "narrative" or "paragraph" type of accounting record (a sezioni sovrapposte), per-haps derived from the "charge and discharge" format used in pub-lic accounts. The survey ended with the emergence of double entry itself, in the ledgers of Renieri (or Rinieri) Fini & Brothers (1296-1305) and Giovanni Farolfi & Company (1299-1300). The latter's records are better preserved and more completely tran-scribed than the other's, and display somewhat more advanced techniques; hence they constitute the main subject of this paper.
The Ledger of Giovanni Farolfi & Company
This document is preserved in Archivio di Stato, Florence, and filed under Carte Strozziane, 2a serie, n. 84 bis. It consists of 56 leaves of paper, about 33 x 24 cm., consequently numbered. The first 47 leaves are lost; the extant ones run from 48 to 110, with numbers 66, 74, 87, 93, 105, 106 and 109 missing. Leaves 92, 94 and 103 are damaged in their lower halves, and 92 and 110 are out of sequence—92 bound after 96, and 110 at the beginning. In this