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The Maner and fourme how to kepe a perfecte reconyng

The maner and fourme how to kepe a perfecte reconyng, after the order of the moste worthie and notable accompte, of debitour and creditour, set foorthe in certain tables, with a declaration thereunto belongyng, verie easie to be learned, and also profitable, not onely unto suche, that trade in the facte of marchaundise, but also unto any other estate, that will learne the same

Written by James Peele

Printed by Richard Grafton. (London; 1553).

This writer, Citizen and Salter of London, clerk to Christ’s Hospital 1562 to 1585, was the author of this the second English work on double-entry bookkeeping to have survived. It was republished in a much enlarged and improved form in 1569.

The Maner and fourme how to kepe a perfecte reconyng

James Peele's work as clerk to Christ's Hospital showed great improvements on his predecessor in the office. Double-entry was adopted, figures were changed from Roman to Arabic, details of the plate etc. appear and records of the admission, placement and deaths of the children. Of 1916 children admitted since the opening of the schools 866 had been placed out "to service", 317 remained and 733 died. Of the latter 134 died between Easter 1562 and Michaelmas 1564. The terrible mortality among children in Elizabethan times is clearly shown. In addition to his work as clerk he taught "the poor chyldren of this house to wright for a benevolence fourtie shillings"  annually together with a quantity of "byletts and three lode of carte coles" and some candles and brooms.

Turning the pages

Take a look at the digitised copy of the first extant original work on accounting in English from the ICAEW collection.

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James Peele's son, George Peele was born about 1558 and became a free scholar at Christ's Hospital and graduated at Oxford. He became a dramatist of considerable merit, was the author of two city pageants and was a shareholder with Shakespeare in the Blackfriars Theatre. George was the cause of difficulties and, one imagines, disappointments to his father. He was always in debt and the governors had to make him promise "to discharge his house of his son... before Michaelmas.." in 1579. From this date it would appear that Richard Wilson took over writing up the ledger because the script changes and continues unaltered after Peele's death when Richard Wilson became clerk.

Six years later James Peele became very sick and he died in December of 1585. The governors seemed to have dealt with him kindly and his widow continued to work for them, taking care of the sick children, after her husband's death.

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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.