A notable and very excellente woorke...
A notable and very excellente woorke, expressyng and declaryng the maner and forme how to kepe a boke of accoptes or reconynges ... Translated with greate diligence out of the Italian toung into Dutche and out of Dutche, into French, and now out of French into English
Written by Jan Ympyn Christoffels
Printed by Richard Grafton (London; 1547)
This is the earliest book printed in English on double-entry bookkeeping which has survived.
Translated by Ympyn from Italian into Dutch, from Dutch into French, and finally from French into English, it originates from an Italian manuscript by one Giovanni Paolo di Bianchi. This was never published and has never been traced nor has any mention or record of anyone of that name. Ympyn’ s book has so much in common with Pacioli’s treatise that a common origin seems certain.
Copies of Ympyn's works are very rare. Only two copies of the Flemish edition of 1543 are known, one is also in the Institute Library and the other is, or was, in the Public Library of Antwerp. Two copies of the French version of the same year are known, one in the British Museum and one in the Library of the University of California. The only known copy of the English version of 1547 was lost. No reference to it by anyone in England ever appeared and abroad only one copy turned up in later years when interest in these early texts was commencing. It was discovered in the Nicolai Gymnasium at Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia) but was removed in 1917 to another town in Russia and again in 1924. This book was eventually traced to Moscow and a microfilm copy of it obtained from which the facsimile in our collection has been produced.
Quite a lot is known about Ympyn. He travelled widely in Europe, spent twelve years in Italy, mostly in Venice, and became a prosperous mercer in Antwerp where he settled. It is almost certain that figures from his own books of account appear as examples in those editions that contained them. Unfortunately the English edition lacks examples although the text calls for them.
This article was originally prepared by the library team in the mid-twentieth century to introduce the rare books and facsimiles in our collection to a wider audience. It is not intended as a piece of scholarly analysis and should not be read as such.
Historical Accounting Literature
The ICAEW collection of historical accounting literature currently comprises around 3,000 volumes and includes works published from the 15th century to the early 20th century. The collection includes books and journals in a variety of languages.
Find out more about the collection and its history.