Double entry bookkeeping emerged by the end of the 13th century and was adopted by, for example, the Datini of Prato during the 1380s. In the transition from single to double entry evident in the Datini Archives, initially accounting records were kept in an account book called a Ricordanze. Record books of this name were typical of Tuscany and, when such books were first used in Tuscany, businessmen began to use them also as a form of personal diary and autobiographical record. Others not in business followed suit and maintained purely personal biographical diaries of the same name. For those in business, the Ricordanze thus developed into a hybrid: partly autobiography and personal and, partly, a place to record matters relating to his business, including details of transactions and of other matters he did not wish to forget, such as promises, obligations, and conditional agreements.
As revealed in the Datini archives for the 14th and 15th centuries, use of a Ricordanze for this purpose was discontinued in the accounting system and the book was replaced with another called a Memoriale, which contained details of all business transactions. By the time Pacioli wrote the first published description of double entry bookkeeping, the Memoriale was identified as one of the three principal account books of that system. The others were the Giornale [journal] and the Quaderno [ledger]. However, largely unnoticed by accounting scholars, towards the end of his treatise, Pacioli also describes another book that merchants ‘would be wise to keep’: a Ricordanze. Not a personal Ricordanze nor a hybrid personal plus business Ricordanze, nor a version of a Memoriale. Pacioli's Ricordanze was intended to serve a very specific purpose: it was a book dedicated to maintaining a record of things that should not be forgotten. As such, it was intended to provide an extra layer of managerial control over the affairs of the merchant beyond that provided by the double entry system.
This paper considers the role of Pacioli's Ricordanze, of the records that may be maintained within it, discusses the merits of maintaining a record book of this type, and questions why such a clearly useful device does not appear to have been adopted even though it was described in the same treatise which led to the universal adoption of double entry bookkeeping.