St Jerome has little to say in this prologue about his actual work, except that the “common edition,” presumably the or an Old Latin version, of the Book of Esther was a mess, and he resorted to the Hebrew text of his day. In this respect, his translation is a valuable version representing a literal translation of a Hebrew text found in Palestine in the late fourth century. He unfortunately doesn’t describe in this letter the messy situation of the additions to Esther found in the Septuagint version, which he included en masse at the end of his version, with short notes indicating where they belonged in his translation. These additions can be found in various editions of the apocrypha, but they’re best read in the version in the NRSV, which is a full translation of the Septuagint text, not just of the additions, and includes them all in their places, not in a bunch at the end. Anyhow, enjoy!
UPDATE: Thanks once again to the very much appreciated help of Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti, I’ve fixed a sentence (now the second one in the first paragraph) that gave me trouble.
[See also the final draft version of this translation, on this page]
BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE TO ESTHER
The Book of Esther stands corrupted by various translators. Which (book) I, lifting up from the archives of the Hebrews, have translated more accurately word for word. The common edition drags the book by knotted ropes of words hither and yon, adding to it things which may have been said or heard at any time. This is as is usual with instruction by schools, when a subject has been taken up, to figure out from the words which someone could have used, which one either suffered injury, or which one caused injury (to the text).
And you, O Paula and Eustochium, since you have both studied to enter the libraries of the Hebrews and also have approved of the battles of the interpreters, holding the Hebrew Book of Esther, look through each word of our translation, so you may be able to understand me also to have augmented nothing by adding, but rather with faithful witness to have translated, just as it is found in the Hebrew, the Hebrew history into the Latin language. We are not affected by the praises of men, nor are we afraid of (their) slanders. For to be pleasing to God we do not inwardly fear those caring for the minas of men, “for God has scattered the bones of those desiring to be pleasing to men” (Ps 52.6), and according to the Apostle, those like this are “not able to be servants of Christ” (Gal 1.10).
END OF THE PROLOGUE