Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Edward Wild: Advocate of Simplification and an Organised Profession in Colonial Australia

Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Edward Wild: Advocate of Simplification and an Organised Profession in Colonial Australia

Article excerpt


The accounting literature abounds with studies of the first or early printed books on accounting published in various countries. To date, it has been established by Carnegie and Parker (1994) that the first printed Australian accounting book was written by James Dimelow. Dimelow's book, Practical Bookkeeping Made Easy, was self-published in sets during 1871-73 in Ballarat. So far as is known, the second accounting book published in Australia was written by Edward Wild. His book, Bookkeeping by Double Entry Made Easy, was printed in Melbourne by Sands & McDougall in 1874.(1) In his book, Wild proposed a simplified system of accounting by double entry for widespread adoption and advocated the formation of an'association of accountants. Wild's advocacy of a local, organised accounting profession was primarily based on his push for the standardisation of accounting practice under a simplified system and came more than a decade before the advent of the first Australian professional accounting body.(2) This paper recognises Wild as a pioneering accounting author in the colonial era and aims to augment the literature on accounting development in Australia.(3)

The content of any book, including books on accounting, is influenced by the author's life experiences, education and social context. Given these perceptives, this paper examines the life and career of Wild along with the local Victorian context within which Wild's book was written. There follows a description and analysis of Wild's book and a discussion of his arguments for the professionalisation of accounting in Australia. Possible influences on Wild's writing are examined and his possible influence on later developments in Australian accounting is also considered.


Edward Wild was born in Yorkshire, England in 1806 to John Wild, a publican, and Anna (nee Copely). By the time Wild reached the age of 19 years, he was living abroad in Hamburg, Germany for he married Anna Da Silva there in 1825. Anna Da Silva was born to a merchant father in the Portuguese city of Oporto in 1805. It is therefore unlikely that Wild gained any substantial commercial experience whilst he resided in England. Wild and his wife continued to live in Hamburg for about two years after their marriage before settling in Oporto, Portugal.

Wild was a finance broker in Portugal. At Oporto in 1832, he introduced what was described as the system of Bill Brokerage for fixing the Rate of Exchange for the British Merchants. Wild was sufficiently recognised in Portugal for some 33 British Merchants to sign a testimonial of 17 December 1845 which acknowledged this accomplishment and his involvement in the finance broking profession for nearly 13 years.(4) A copy of this testimonial written in English was included in Book-keeping by Double Entry Made Easy


. Wild was also involved in the wine trade at Oporto during his 27 years in that city and had experience chiefly in the wine produce of Douro

The Argus, 9 April 1860, p.6; Victoria, Report of the Royal Commission ..., 1867, p.116

. Wild departed Portugal in 1854 bound for Melbourne in the Colony of Victoria. While no official shipping records of his arrival were found, residence in Victoria from 1854 is confirmed by death registration records which state that Wild resided in the Colony for 23 years until his death in Melbourne on 23 April 1877.

On his arrival in Victoria in 1854, Wild evidently rendered seices as an accountant for he acted for the Hon. J.P. Bear, Member of the Legislative Council of Victoria (MLC), of Messrs. Bear and Son

pp.5 and 13 of Wild's book

.(5) In 1856, Wild was involved in a partnership with Charles Vaughan in the vocation of estate agents and stockbrokers.(6) The partnership of Vaughan and Wild dealt mostly in the sale and purchase of real estate(7)

Hall, 1968, p.11

. An early land acquisition by Vaughan and Wild was in August 1856 when they purchased the pastoral run of "Maryville" near Morwell

Billis and Kenyon, 1974, p. …

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