69. Della mercatura et del mercante perfetto. Di Benedetto Cotrugli Raugeo. Libri quattro. Doue si tratta il modo di lecitamente negotiare … Opera ad ogni mercante, e deuoto christiano vtilissima Nuouamente datta in luce

Biblioteca Riccardiana, Florence
St. 16852
SENDER: Benedetto Cotrugli
GENERAL INFORMATION: Brescia: Libraria del Bozzola, 1602

In spite of the comparative (and relative) popularity of Pacioli’s Somma (see doc. 51 above), this work by Benedetto Cotrugli is generally considered the first recorded description of the system for double-entry bookkeeping. Born in Ragusa, Dalmatia, Cotrugli was a lawyer, merchant and scholar who also frequented the humanist circles of the Neapolitan court of Alfonso V of Aragon, where he produced texts on marriage (De uxore ducenda, now lost) and seafaring and cosmography (De navigatione). They are both closely related to his Libro d’arte della mercatura, a comprehensive descriptive and normative approach to the practice of trade and the figure of the merchant, whom he deems to be a fundamental civic agent living and operating in two different but nevertheless closely related worlds. One is the private realm of the family, which constitutes the heart of the business as well as the emotional centre of the merchant’s life. The other realm revolves around the overseas communication and transportation networks which are so essential for the conduct of trade. These images show the first extant manuscript with Cotrugli’s work (doc. 68), which would be printed only many years later, first in 1573, and then again in 1602 (see doc. 69). Both images display a section of his chapter 13 (‘De l’hordene de tenere le scripture con ordine mercantile’) describing the practices for the administration of information, the methods for its registration, and the documents involved in this process. This chapter starts with a description of the history of the pen, in which Cotrugli stresses its nobility and its fundamental role in the practice of scripture as the foundation of all human knowledge. He then goes on to cover abstract and universal disciplines like philosophy and theology, all the way to practical and particular cases of political, social and economic activities such as public administration and trade.

(José María Pérez Fernández)