In this Christie’s New York (25/20/13.5% buyer’s premium) sale on June 12, where it sold at $1m (£775,195), it was promoted as the work that marked the birth of modern business and one that has profoundly shaped our modern economic world.
A book that incorporates mathematics and computing as well as providing the first description in print of double entry book-keeping, said Christie’s, Summa de arithmetica… represents the pinnacle of mathematical knowledge in the Renaissance, when the forgotten wisdom of the past was brought up to date with Islamic and Indian science.
Pacioli (1447-1517) was also a collaborator and friend of Leonardo da Vinci, with whom he shared a home in Milan for five years, and the two men worked together on mathematical and perspective studies before being forced to flee the city following the French invasion.
Estimated at $1m-1.5m, this copy had been additionally exhibited in San Francisco, London and Hong Kong prior to auction at the Rockefeller Plaza salerooms, where what Christie’s called two minutes of competitive bidding between phone bidders and those in the room led to up to its sale.
This was one of only three complete copies recorded at auction in over 50 years, but it was as recently as 2005 that a fine, partly coloured and gold heightened copy in the great Macclesfield Library, dispersed by Sotheby’s over a period of five years, was sold for £470,000.
Though in a later, 18th century English binding this was the dedication copy, presented by Pacioli to his patron, Guidubaldo da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, whose great library was later broken up and widely dispersed in Italy and elsewhere.
It is also interesting to note that the splendidly decorated Urbino copy was promoted at the time of the Macclesfield sales as the first printed book on algebra rather than as the work that marked the birth of modern business.