Introduced by a Neapolitan banker, Lorenzo Tonti, annuities first made an appearance in 17th century France. These first functioned as tontines, which awarded investors in shares income from investments; as investors died, the pool of surviving investors shrank, and so each surviving investor was awarded a larger return. While tontines were eventually made illegal in the West owing to the incentive created to do away with other investors, tontines survive in the form of the annuities we know today.

True to its origins, many French historical documents dealing with annuities exist today, and the Annuity Museum is happy to own two interesting specimens. The first is a record of a court case concerning the frequency of annuity payments, and the second is a letter, written during the French Revolution, highlighting the use of annuities.