Annual EBHS Conference, 39th Annual Economic and Business History Society Conference

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Brtvín, Černobýl and Fišer: The key accounting books from the Early Modern Period in the Czech lands
Pavla Slavickova

Last modified: 2014-03-10


The authors and their theoretical books which laid the foundations of systematic accounting and influenced the development of double-entry bookkeeping in Western Europe especially, such as Luca Pacioli, Simon Stevin, Mathie de la Porte, Friedrich Hügli, Passhier-Goessen etc., are well known. However, less attention has been devoted to the history of accounting in the Central and Eastern Europe, including the Czech lands. The aim of the paper is to introduce three theoretical accounting books from the 16th and 17th centuries and their authors who were crucial for the history of bookkeeping in the Czech lands: Jan Brtvín from Ploskovice and his book Knížka tato (This book) from 1540 (printed in Prague), Mikuláš Černobýl  and his work called Jiná kratší správa, jednomu každému pánu velmi užitečná (Another shorter report, very useful for each lord) from 1587 (Prague) and, last but not least, Oculus Domini: Operis Oeconomici written by Kryštof Fišer in 1679 (Prague). The first findings show that the development of accounting in the Czech lands was in many ways different to the situation in West and South European countries. This may be, for example, documented by a rather long avoidance of double-entry bookkeeping (which had not been used earlier than the 19th century). From this point of view, these three books are vital for understanding the accounting systems used in the past in Czech. Although each author had a different social status and even if their works were designed for different audiences - Jan Brtvín belonged to the Czech lower nobility; Mikuláš Černobýl worked as an alderman at the town hall in Žatec, one of the most important Czech royal cities; and Kryštof Fišer was a member of the Jesuit Order - their description of the recommended accounting system is very similar. It is single-entry accounting in the version suitable for large business units, such as noble estates, church or municipal property administration. For this reason, the accounting system is based on a series of several accounting books, which should cover all the book-keeper’s requirements. However, not only the typology of these accounting books differed in the manuals, there were many other differences among them, being more or less crucial for a successful outcome. With regards to the statement, the paper has three parts: 1)a brief introduction of the authors and of their books in the context of the current Czech research in the field of the history of bookkeeping; 2) a description and analysis of the accounting systems designed by Brtvín, Černobýl and Fišer; and 3) a conclusion containing a comparison of the pros and cons of the presented versions of the single-entry accounting system considering the real needs of an economics unit in the Early Modern Period in the Czech lands.