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The Big Four by Stuart Kells, Ian D. Gow

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Prelude

SCIENCE, MAGIC AND THE PREHISTORY OF THE BIG FOUR

Founded in the nineteenth century as the world’s first national accounting body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales quickly established a dining club, sports clubs and a library. Among the library’s first acquisitions was a copy of Luca Pacioli’s ground-breaking Renaissance book of practical mathematics, Summa de Arithmetica (1494).

Summa de Arithmetica explains how to manage ledgers, inventories, liabilities and expense accounts. As well as pioneering the use of Hindu– Arabic numerals in Europe, it helped popularise double-entry accounting. ‘For every credit in a ledger,’ Pacioli wrote, ‘there must also be a debit.’ The enlightened author encouraged entrepreneurs ...

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