A maths lesson with České překlady

We’ve just celebrated International Translation Day which falls on the anniversary of the death of St Jerome, on 30 September

St Jerome became famous for his translation of the Bible. To be more specific, the Old Testament. And legend has it that he translated the Bible in just one night.

Of course we now know that this is impossible; his translation was the work of a lifetime and he didn’t even translate the whole book. But what if…? “I’d like to do the maths,” as Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory would say.


So let’s see how it all adds up: The Old Testament contains 622,771 words. True, the version we have today is slightly different than the one St Jerome was translating, but it’s a good enough starting point.

622,771 words is a nice number, but what does it really mean? Have you seen George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books? Well, imagine two of them! They’re big enough that you could easily hurt someone with them! Anyway, what we’re saying is that it’s quite a lot of text.


If we say there are 12 hours in a night, that means Jerome would have to translate 207 standard pages per hour. Of course not everyone knows how long it takes to translate a standard page, but we can all imagine how long it takes to type one. So:


The world record in touch-typing (which is much faster than handwriting in the 3rd and 4th century AD was – and we’re pretty sure that St Jerome didn’t have a typewriter) is 216 words per minute, achieved by Stella Pajunas in 1946. How fast is that? You can get an idea here.


If St Jerome had an IBM electric typewriter (like Stella did), he’d have to type (while translating at the same time) not 216, but at least 864 words per minute to finish on time. Even 

faster if at some point during those 12 hours he needed to, say, relieve himself or go walk the dog. 864 words is about 3.5 standard pages. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a minute.



If the legend were true, St Jerome would have generated written material slightly faster than Gutenberg’s printing press, about a millennium earlier. 

Not bad! 


How fast can you type?

How fast do you think St Jerome could type?

When is George R. R. Martin finally going to release his next book?

Why so serious?

And what do they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

So many questions…


Author: Michaela Vorlová



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