Keeping the Books


The Eberhard Faber Company suffered a devastating fire in 1872, destroying their first factory which was situated along the East River. At the time it was reported to have been a total loss, but remarkably this ledger book survived.

faber-accounting-book-8Cover of the ledger.

It was begun in 1857 and in it are some of the oldest surviving records of the Eberhard Faber Company, the majority of which detail the goods imported from the parent company A.W. Faber in Stein, Germany.




It also documents an auspicious time in the company’s history: the years leading up to and including the founding of their first factory, in 1861.




This ledger book reminds us of a time when handwriting was of paramount importance, as was the care and concern involved with “keeping the books.”

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7 Responses to Keeping the Books

  1. Beautiful. An involuntary memory when I saw the third photo: the handwriting that fills the screen in Citizen Kane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean says:

      So many quotable exchanges in that film but one that always comes to mind is when Thatcher is admonishing Kane for his unbridled spending. Kane has this classic response (or thereabouts):

      “You’re right Mr. Thatcher, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year I’ll have to close this place in…sixty years.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. memm says:

    It just looks beautiful even though it was just supposed to be mainly utilitarian.


    • Sean says:

      Agreed, Memm. To us it seems like “calligraphy” i.e. something meant as art and above everyday handwriting. What I’d like to know is, what was the threshold back then between utilitarian everyday copperplate and a work of artistic calligraphy? Did bookkeepers, when applying for a job, submit handwriting samples the same way applicants today might be tested on how many words per minute they can type? (If that’s even tested anymore.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sean says:

    Here is an excerpt from an interesting article called “Using and Understanding 19th-Century Account Books” The PDF is here.

    The system recommended to “the generality of Mechanics, Farmers,
    Retail Merchants, &c.” was single entry bookkeeping. Two books
    were required: a book of original entry called a “day book” in which
    transactions were entered in chronological order, and a “ledger” in
    which transactions were entered under individual accounts as debits
    (“Dr.”) and credits (“Cr.”). The terms “waste book,” “day book,” and
    “journal” were sometimes used interchangeably. A waste book is
    simply the rough form of the day book; “journal” usually refers to the
    book used in double entry bookkeeping to separate transactions into
    debits and credits.


  4. Pingback: Preserving the Past: Creekside Digital | Contrapuntalism

  5. Pingback: Eberhard Faber’s 1856 Copybook | Contrapuntalism

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