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The object of this chapter is to show how the major stylistic features of DEB (double-entry bookkeeping), as expounded upon in Luca Pacioli’s Particularis de Computis et Scripturis, were modeled after the principles of Ciceronian rhetoric. This is not to suggest that the treatments of their respective subjects are identical. While Pacioli does use the Ciceronian categories “Inventory” and “Disposition” to entitle the two major divisions of his treatise, Cicero himself acknowledged that if a dictator (a speaker or writer) were to be persuasive, he or she had to flexibly adjust their appeals to the situation. Medieval professors of dictamen typically broke betrothal letters, forensic arguments, homilies, historiographies, poems, and business accounts into the same general parts, but they understood these to be addressed to very different audiences. Hence, it would have been inane for such documents to parallel each other in any but the most general way. I hope the reader recalls that although Pacioli’s was history ’s first known bookkeeping text, the operations it depicts had been in use for at least a century and a half before his time. In other words, Pacioli may have successfully conveyed DEB, but he did not “invent” it. Who in fact did may never be known. The Invention of the Ledger By inventione, Cicero means the process through which an orator goes to “discover” his or her argument: the primary sources consulted, the experts interviewed, the things observed, and so 63 C H A P T E R 7 The Rhetoric of Double-entry Bookkeeping on, the topoi (Gr.: places) or loci they visit. For Pacioli, the ledger is the final argument that merchants present to the auditor ; the journal and the memorandum (the daybook) are the places they go to “invent” their case. This being so, says Pacioli, the “transactions [recorded in them] can never be too clear” (Pacioli, 1963: 40). The complete daybook should contain all the facts necessary and sufficient for defending claims in court, for protecting oneself from litigation, and for resolving disputes among partners concerning a just division of the profits. Pacioli describes the invention of the ledger as entailing two steps. In the first, the bookkeeper transfers relevant data from the daybook to the journal. When he does this, the daybook ’s prose sentences are replaced with briefer statements containing technical terms such as “per” and “a,” and technical marks like parallel lines. Once having done this, the bookkeeper then posts each journal entry twice into the ledger, as a credit to one account and as a debit to another (Pacioli, 1963: 43–44, 45–47). Pacioli recommends that the following information be recorded in the daybook or memorandum: the parties to the transaction (distinguishing, of course, between the person to whom something is sold and from whom something is bought), the nature of the goods or service in question, where it took place, its date, the amounts involved, the conditions under which it occurred, and any witnesses to it. “No point should be omitted in the memorandum,” including if possible, “everything that was said during the transaction” (Pacioli, 1963: 40). This information is identical to that routinely sought by period priests during their confessional interrogations of penitents , which underscores the likelihood that both enterprises emerged from comparable circumstances, namely, from popular knowledge about how credible defenses and prosecutions were readied: quis (who), quid (what), quare (where), quando (when), qunatum (how much), cum quo (in whose presence), and cur (how). Authorities believe that the ultimate source of this rhetorical septenary was either the so-called Master of Eloquence himself, Cicero, or his student, Victorinius (Cicero, 1949, I.xxiv–xxviii.35–43; Robertson, 1946). It was subse64 Confession and Bookkeeping quently mediated to medieval writers through Boethius’s discussion of the circumstances considered essential in determining the legal status of courtroom defendants (Leff, 1978). How Italian public notaries received them cannot be determined for certain, except to say that for both medieval Italian schoolboys and college students, primary instruction in composition included rote memorization and drill in the seven questions. As for Pacioli in particular, we know that he studied both the art of letter writing and Ciceronian rhetoric as a youth. Perhaps more to the point, his own personal experiences in confession might have made systematic inquiry into the septenary seem almost second nature. Pacioli was boarded and educated in a Franciscan monastery where weekly, if not daily, confession was the rule. The Disposition of the Ledger There is little agreement among...


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