51. Somma di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalità

Biblioteca Riccardiana, Florence
St 10245
SENDER: Luca Pacioli
GENERAL INFORMATION: Luca de Burgo S. Sepulchri [Luca Pacioli], Somma di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalità (Venice: Paganinus de Paganinis, 1494).

A classic in several disciplines, in a single volume Pacioli combines Euclidean geometry, mathematics, accountancy and other methods used in the registration of information – numerical and otherwise – for the administration and control of a business using double-entry bookkeeping. Thanks to authors like Cotrugli and Pacioli, this system would evolve and eventually spread from the south of Europe to the northwestern regions of the continent, in parallel with the gradual displacement of geopolitical and economic power from the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic between the end of the fifteenth and the early seventeenth centuries. The founding role and influence ascribed to Italian methods and the authors that popularised them was manifest in documents like the inventory of Pieter Barentsz in Amsterdam, who in 1640 still owned a number of books about ‘Italian accounting’ (see doc. 71 below), and, well before that, in the manuscript Venezianische Musterbuchhaltung (On Venetian Bookkeeping) penned by Fugger’s chief accountant (see doc. 70 below). In these pages Pacioli explains systems for the classification and administration of all sorts of papers – in other words, different records of information which are not directly part of the semiotic and mathematical system of accounting, but are nevertheless a fundamental part of the documentary constellation, i.e., the information system, required to run a large business. Rhetoric meets algebra and communication techniques with the use of paper-based documents in sections like Pacioli’s chapter 35: ‘Del modo e ordine asaper tener le scripture menute come sono scritti de mano lettere familiari ... e altri instrumenti e del registro de le lettere importanti’ (208v) (‘How and in what order papers should be kept, such as manuscripts, family letters, policies, processes, judgements and other instruments of writing and the record book of important letters’).

(José María Pérez Fernández)