March 6, 2019

There’s money in business—especially if you’re selling the first business book ever written


The man himself, Luca Pacioli

The auction house Christie’s will auction off the oldest, and most fundamental book on business this month. According to Barbara Booth of CNBC, Luca Pacioli’s Summa de Arithmetica is expected to sell at $1.5 million.

Pacioli is known as the Father of Modern Accounting; his book on the subject was written in 1494 and is considered to be the first-ever “how-to” on the subject. Many of his methods, according to Booth, are still used today in modern bookkeeping.

Booth writes,

Pacioli’s Summa de Arithmetica represents the pinnacle of mathematical knowledge in the Renaissance and is an icon not just of Renaissance learning but of the history of human knowledge, claims the specialists at Christie’s.

An important figure during the Renaissance, Pacioli was a close friend and collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci, the era’s most famous inventor. Booth claims the two lived together at one point, working together to decipher mathematical theories at the time.

The two shared a home in Milan for five years, where they worked together on mathematics and perspective for several productive years that included Leonardo’s creation of “The Last Supper,” until both were forced to flee following the French invasion.

A time of incredible human progress, da Vinci’s own successes are chronicled in our 2017 biography by Mike Lankford, Becoming Leonardo.

Starting next week, the book will be on display as “Summa de Arithmetica: The Birth of Modern Business” at Christie’s auction house in New York City, heading to San Francisco for the month of April, and then Hong Kong in May. Summa de Arithmetica will find its way back to New York City for the auction, which will take place on June 12.



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.