Bureaucracy : Accounting

Accounting

Bureaucracy is often deployed keep track of persons, things, money, knowledge, practices, and beliefs. The drive to account arises when an institution or body of knowledge grows to a scale wherein its components need to be documented and counted. Purposes of accounting vary, but the practice shows the power of bureaucracy to also be its weakness: as duties and powers are delegated and disseminated, the need for administration emerges. Administration demands and depends on accounting to make to represent of institutional processes and development, to make them known. This knowledge is embedded in particular forms and formats: indexes, catalogs, lists, two-column entries, and other cross-referencing systems rely on books created to suit the purposes of keeping accounts.

This account book records the activities of a milliner’s shop—a dealer in textiles—operating in Denton, Texas around the turn of the twentieth century. It records, in particular, one year’s activities spanning from late 1904 to early 1905. It was most likely kept by the shop’s proprietor, Cora Helen [Hettie] Elizabeth Elliott. 

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Cora Helen Elizabeth Elliot's Account Book

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) was a self-proclaimed prophetess who began publishing her spiritual and prophetic works in 1801. At the age of 42 Southcott began to hear a ‘voice’ that, she claimed, enabled her to predict various events during the 1790s, including the war with France and food shortages. Due to the accuracy of her prophecies, Southcott quickly drew a number of followers to her cause. Between 1801 and 1814, these followers consolidated into a movement fueled by the volume of Southcott’s publications—over 65 books and pamphlets that circulated in over 100,000 copies collectively (Bowerbank). Published the year after her death, this 240 page book indexes many of Southcott’s popular writings. 

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The pages on display here come from a book (printed in 1804) that reprinted nine reports delivered to Britain’s House of Commons in the years 1772 and 1773. These reports consider the appointment of superintending commissioners in the East Indies; the Company’s financial holdings; the distribution of the Company’s profits gained in the East Indies; abuses by Company servants that diminished profits; the use and account of ships employed by the Company; Company profits and oversight in Bengal; the legal structure employed by the Company in Bengal; a shortage of cash experienced by the Company in England as a result of funds drawn by its servants in India; and the cost of employing Company officers and servants in India. 

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The contents of this printed herbal are based on compilations from earlier herbals made James Newton (1639-1718), a physician and botanist. Newton’s research took him throughout England and the Netherlands and he corresponded with noteworthy contemporary men of science, including Paul Hermann at Leiden, James Sutherland at the Edinburgh Physic Garden, Hans Sloane of British Museum fame, and John Ray, author of the compendious Historia Plantarum (1686-1704). Inspired by the work of these men and others, Newton attentively and meticulously lorded over the realm of botany. Newton’s work aims to fully account for—by name and appearance—the entirety of late seventeenth-century botanical knowledge.

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