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First-ever, 1494 book on how to succeed in business is set to go on auction block, expected to fetch up to $1.5 million

Key Points
  • Luca Pacioli's "Summa de Arithmetica: The Birth of Modern Business," is on display at Christie's auction house Monday through March 8. The book will go on the auction block on June 12 in New York City.
  • The 1494 book, the first-ever practical guide on how to succeed in business, codified the mathematical foundations of our modern and technological world.
  • Christie's specialists claim the book could fetch as much as $1.5 million.
Luca Pacioli's 1494 book "Summa de Arithmetica" introduced bookkeeping methods used today and is considered to have prefigured many aspects of the modern business world. It is estimated by Christie's to fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million at auction.
Christie's Images Ltd. 2019

In 1494 Luca Pacioli, known as the Father of Modern Accounting, wrote the first practical how-to book on succeeding in business. It introduced many bookkeeping methods that are used today and is considered to have prefigured many aspects of the modern business world. Now the Italian mathematician's book is set to go on the auction block — and Christie's specialists claim it could fetch as much as $1.5 million.

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.

Pacioli was one of the first to recognize the study of economics as a liberal art. "Summa de Arithmetica" codifies the mathematical foundations of our modern and technological world and includes mathematics, computing and is the first published description of double-entry bookkeeping.

According to Christina Geiger, head of books and manuscripts at Christie's in New York, Pacioli's achievement is one of the great untold stories of the Renaissance. "As Leonardo and others made revolutionary strides in art and Machiavelli did for politics, so too did Pacioli for business. ... The mathematical principles of the most vital features of contemporary finance are all present in the Summa de Arithmetica," she said.

On Monday through March 8, "Summa de Arithmetica: The Birth of Modern Business" will be on display at Christie's auction house in New York City before heading to San Francisco next month, then Hong Kong in May. The book will be returned to New York City to be auctioned off at Christie's on June 12.

In writing the "Summa de Arithmetica," Pacioli sought to include all the mathematical knowledge available at the close of the 15th century, which saw the European adoption of Hindu-Arabic mathematics and its synthesis with rediscovered ancient Greek knowledge.

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Pacioli was also collaborator and friend of the famed artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. 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.

In 2018 Christie's global auction, private and digital sales totaled $7 billion.