Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

The Bordázar Memorandum: Cost Calculation in Spanish Printing during the 18th Century

Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

The Bordázar Memorandum: Cost Calculation in Spanish Printing during the 18th Century

Article excerpt

Abstract: Since the first printers settled in Castile, books were regulated as a basic necessity and their retail prices were controlled. The bestselling works were sacred prayer books. The printing monopoly in Castile was enjoyed by a Flemish workshop (Plantin). In 1732 Antonio Bordázar de Artazu, authored, printed and distributed to the authorities a Memorandum in which he tried to prove that Spanish printers were able to print books at lower prices and still maintain quality standards. This Memorandum presented a costing model, and provides an early example of the use of cost accounting to challenge a monopoly in Spain.


Antonio Bordázar de Artazu, a renowned printer from Valencia wrote and printed a Memorandum in 1732 addressed to the King of Spain with two objectives: to demonstrate his ability to take over the printing of sacred prayer books and to show through a costing statement that these books could be printed in Spain at lower prices. The Memorandum is 24 pages long and is available at the National Library, Madrid (under the reference 2/14180).

There are three basic reasons why this Memorandum merits a depth analysis. First, the document shows an early example of the usage of cost calculations to challenge a monopoly within a strictly regulated market. Second, and in contrast to similar and earlier costing documents, the Memorandum entered the public domain; it was addressed and sent to the government. Third, the costing systems used in the printing industry are of particular interest and were associated with relatively sophisticated technical processes during the 18th century. This paper seeks to contribute to the growing literature on accounting in the printing industry [Daniels, 1994; Walker and Mitchell, 1998]. The fact that Bordázar was an experienced and successful printer aged 61 when he published his Memorandum, together with his solid mathematical background, makes his paper a unique source for understanding the changes that were about to occur in the printing industry during the second half of the 18th century.


The objectives of the paper are to compare Bordázar's costing model with that of a benchmark workshop (Plantin) and assess the impact of Bordázar's Memorandum on the printing industry. The evidence obtained will be used to verify the utility of Bordázar's model for decision making and to analyze the document in the context of theories of change in accounting technology.

These purposes determine the structure of the paper. The first section relates the historical background and explains the printing process in 18th century Spain from a legal and technical perspective. The second section focuses on a description of the Bordázar costing model, a discussion of the findings and a comparison with the costing model of Plantin. The third section elaborates on the impact of the Memorandum when it was published. Conclusions follow. This paper seeks to contribute to the history literature on the adaptation of accounting systems in specific organizational circumstances as recommended by authorities on accounting innovation and change [McWatters, 1993] and the history of costing systems in monopolistic industries [Carmona and Donoso, 2002],


Historical Background: Until the 18th century, the principal works of the classic Castilian writers such as Cervantes, Quevedo or Lope de Vega were printed on poor quality paper, using eroded or even damaged printing types. In other European countries higher quality printing was produced [Garcia Cuadrado, 2001]. In Spain there was no lack of demand for printed products. Illiteracy in Castile was no lower than in other European countries, and the purchasing power of its citizens was similar.

The reasons for poor quality printing in Spain were well known to contemporary printers and the relevant authorities. A regulation from 1480 regarded books as a basic necessity. …

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