An invoice is a document given to the buyer by the seller to collect payments. Learn about the history of invoicing purpose and origin here.

History of Invoicing – The Origin of Invoicing and Where It All Began

Invoices play an essential role in any business. They provide a record of what was sold, to whom it was sold, and the date of the sale. But while it may be a simple document, the history of invoicing is very long and rich one.

Taking a look back in time, businesses have always relied on invoicing. It isn’t a concept that was just invented in the near past. In fact, its roots even date back to the start of human civilization!

Unfortunately, not all business owners are aware of this interesting fact. In this article, we’re going to share a portion of accounting history as we talk about the history of invoicing and how it has evolved to what it is today.

Cuneiform Invoice (2900 BCE)

Did you know that the first form of writing stems from the need to keep records of items sent out or received? Trading was the earliest form of exchanging goods and services, and the Cuneiform served as proof of this type of transaction.

The Cuneiform originates in Mesopotamia, and it is the oldest known document that resembles an invoice. The Sumerian temple priests were believed to have invented Cuneiform to help them keep track of agricultural produce, particularly its byproducts (e.g., bread, wine).

These symbols feature simple drawings of the items that needed to be entered into the temple records. This clay tablet would later feature a list of items and the price and quantity of each, resembling the earliest forms of invoice in the history of invoicing.

Pylos Tablet Invoice (1450 BC)

The Pylos is an ancient Greek clay tablet discovered in the ruins of the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor. These tablets are some of the oldest examples of European writing.

The Pylos tablet is an important discovery because it shows that the ancient Greeks were already using an early form of accounting. This clay tablet features a list of items to be delivered, similar to the cuneiform invoice.

However, the Pylos tablet is unique because it also includes the sender and recipient’s names. This shows that the ancient Greeks were already using a form of invoicing system for trade transactions and other types of exchanges.

Hieronymus Bosch (1504)

Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch painter from Brabant in the Netherlands. Apart from his paintings, he was also known to have written the earliest form of invoice in the history of invoicing.

There are accounts of him using an invoice document to request payment for a painting he had done for King Philip the Handsome of Castile in September 1504AD. This invoice is significant because it is the first known instance of someone using an invoicing system to bill their client.

Bosch’s invoice featured a down payment of 36 pounds for his painting entitled “The Last Judgment.” But unfortunately, it didn’t have the standard format that we would see in invoices today.

Georgian Funeral Invoicing (1780)

The discovery and invention of the printing press in the 1440s made it possible (and easier) to create written communication — including mass-production of documents such as invoices. This had a significant impact on the history of invoicing.

One of the first examples of printed invoices was a Georgian era funeral expenses invoice sent out to one Eleanor Hall for the funeral services of her then-husband in 1780. This early invoice document was significant as it provided a detailed list of all the items and services that were purchased for the funeral, which is similar to the modern-day invoice we see today.

Graham Brother Distillers Invoice (1904)

The Graham Brothers Distillers were the first companies to use technology to create a professional invoice. Their 1904 invoice, for instance, gave people of the past a sneak peek of what an invoice looks like in the future.

This particular invoice featured a printed logo, company address, and telephone number, which are standard elements of a professional invoice today. Their invoice even doubles as a marketing tool because of the bold letterhead.

Unfortunately, the invoicing technology was still in its early stages. As a result, the receiver had to do some long division to calculate the cost of the items on the list.

Omega Sales Co. (1981)

The 1980s was the start of the computerized era of invoicing. This meant that while the majority of businesses were still using the paper-based invoices of the past, some were slowly transitioning to computer-generated invoices.

In 1981, Omega Sales Co. sent a computer-generated invoice to one of the first people to own an actual home computer. But unfortunately, they didn’t ship the joystick and had to stick it out manually.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) (2004)

This type of invoice represents the last version of the hybrid invoicing system that relies on printed paper to deliver invoices to customers. For example, EDI was a 2004 Wal-Mart invoice that required you to input all data manually — even the customer’s name, address, and email.

The only thing that was automatically generated was the barcode on the bottom of the invoice. This was used to scan the invoice and add it to the customer’s online order history.

Invoice Automation (2019)

2019 was the start of the digital age for invoicing. Since then, you no longer need to make invoice entries manually. Instead, you can now automate the process by using online invoicing tools.

This means that businesses can now manage their invoices and payments all in one place. This is not only more efficient, but it also saves a lot of time and money.

Modern Day Invoicing is Now Digitized

We’ve come a long way from what invoicing used to be in the past. Businesses can now manage their invoices and payments with ease, from a paper-based system to a fully digital process. 

As a modern-day business, you need to ensure you have the right invoicing tool to get the job done. While traditional manual invoicing is still a viable option, it’s no longer effective or practical. 

To be competitive in today’s invoicing standards, you need to go digital. With online invoicing tools, businesses can embrace the present and future of invoicing. In addition, these tools can help save time and money by automating the entire invoicing process. 

If you’re not using an online invoicing tool yet, now is the right moment to get started! With digital invoicing, you have access to the following benefits:

  • Automate your entire invoicing process
  • Send and track payments all in one place
  • Get paid faster with online payments
  • Save time and money on printing and postage costs

Why Choose ReliaBills?

Modern-day invoicing problems aren’t about the actual process and method. Instead, it is about choosing which invoicing system to use. So if you’re looking for an invoicing tool that can help you automate your entire process, look no further than ReliaBills. 

ReliaBills is one of the modern invoicing software systems available today. We cater to businesses of all sizes, providing them with the ability to automate their invoicing process and get paid faster. 

With our online invoicing tool, you can experience the following features and benefits:

  • Automate your entire invoicing process
  • Send and track payments all in one place
  • Get paid faster with online payments
  • Save time and money on printing and postage costs

But wait, that’s not all. If you subscribe to ReliaBills PLUS (for only $24.95/mo), you’ll get access to even more amazing features like:

  • Recurring billing: Automatically bill your customers on a regular basis.
  • Auto Collection Notifications: Get paid on time, every time, with automatic collection notifications.
  • Online Billing Portal: Give your customers the ability to view and pay their invoices online.
  • Chargeback Recovery: Our system will help you recover chargebacks to get paid for the work you’ve done.
  • Automated Failed Payment Recovery: Automatically recover failed payments, so you don’t have to.
  • QuickBooks Online Sync: Keep your accounting software and invoicing tool in sync with our 2-way sync with QuickBooks.
  • And so much more!

ReliaBills offers other useful services that will help you get paid faster. For more information about ReliaBills and all of our service offerings, check out our website at www.reliabills.com.

Wrapping Up

The history of invoicing is a long and rich one. From the early days of human civilization to the modern digital age, businesses have always relied on accounting processes to manage their finances. That’s why it pays to know a little bit about the origins of the invoice you’re using today.

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