The Accounting Historians Journal
Vol. 15, No. 1
Terry K. Sheldahl SAVANNAH STATE COLLEGE
FOREWORD TO C. C. MARSH'S 1835
Lecture on the Study of Book-Keeping, with a Balance Sheet
Over the past eleven years three books by Philadelphia (briefly) and New York accounting teacher C(hristopher) C(olumbus) Marsh, 1806-84 [Bentley and Leonard, 1934-35, vol. 1, p. 16], have been reprinted [[Brief, 1979], p. 17; and Stone, 1982, vols. 5b, 19b]. Reviewed in this journal in 1985 [Givens], one of them may have been the first U.S. text on bank book-keeping [[Brief, 1979], p. 17], and had in presumably a later edition been used in 1883 in the Wharton School's first ac-counting course [Previts and Merino, 1979, p. 105].
Another reprinted work is, however, more critical to Marsh's place in the accounting literature. Previts and Shel-dahl have suggested [1988, pp. 1-2] that his Science of Double-Entry Book-Keeping, originating in 1830, marked an important early step in a long transition from traditional merchants' accounts [Sheldahl, 1985, pp. 13-19] toward an accounting system better suited to an emerging industrial and corporate economy.
The essay that follows (there is no non-title evidence that it was the text for a public address) presents in concise form the bookkeeping analysis of Marsh's Science . The basic thrust is a plea for simplicity in accounting exposition, and thence instruction. Negatively, it is directed in particular against the triadic classification of accounts presented by James Bennett (later known as James Arlington Bennet), 1788-1863, whose American System of Practical Book-Keeping had originated in 1820 [Bentley and Leonard, 1934-35, vol. 1, p. 10).1
Acknowledgment is gratefully made to the Special Collections Department at the University of Baltimore Library, which supplied Marsh's essay for reprint from its Herwood Library of Accountancy collection, the (or a) source also of the nineteenth-century texts cited other than the book by Bennett.
1Bennett's first (official) edition, among forty-one [Bentley and Leonard, 1934-35, vol. 1, pp. 10-11], is bound in 1982 reprints [Stone, vols. 5a, b] with the 1831 second edition of Marsh's double-entry text.