The History of a Trial Balance

A trial balance is probably much older than you would expect, in fact it dates back to 1458! It’s fascinating that we are still using this process over 500 years on.

It was originally believed that Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli also known as Luca di Borgo after his place of birth, Borgo SansepolcroTuscany, was the first to describe a trial balance in his work. 

Luca Di Borgo was a mathematician who collaborated with Leonardo Da Vinci and became known as ‘The Father of Accounting and Bookkeeping’.

In 1494 Luca Di Borgo described a similar technique to that of a trial balance within his work: Summa de arithmetica. The method is described in the section of his work titled: Particularis de Computis et Scripturis. 

Although Luca Di Borgo’s work was the first to be published, it was later discovered that Benedikt Kotruljevic’s work that also referred to a trial balance (but not by the exact phrase) pre-dated that of Luca Di Borgo’s.

Benedikt Kotruljevic also known as Benedetto Cotrugli was born in Ragusa, what we now refer to as Dubrovnik. In 1573 his book which described the double entry accounting system, Libro de l’Arte de la Mercatura, which translates to The Book On The Art Of Trade, was published. However the original manuscript of his work dates back to 1458, making it the earliest recorded description of a trial balance. 

The earliest copy of Ccontrugli’s manuscript can be found in the National Library of Malta and is dated 1475. 

Summa de arithmetica was highly regarded and became an international accounting textbook. Remarkably over the years Cotrugli’s method of accountancy has mostly been untouched, with a trial balance still being used to this day.

Even though it was discovered that Cotrugli’s work pre-dated that of Borgo’s, it was Borgo’s work which dramatically changed the world of accountancy, giving him the name, ‘The Father of Accounting and Bookkeeping’. His work helped to improve business operations, helping organisations to become more efficient and profitable.

We’re in the business of making Sage systems and procedures more efficient, just as he did with operations. For hints, tips and advice to make your Sage system more efficient, join our Sage 50 Accounts Support Community.

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