A bean counter is the term used to describe a person who has driven precision in all his actions to the point of pedantry.
Most people today assume that the origin of this word is to be found in the life of Karl Baedecker, the well-known publisher and bookseller, who is considered the “father” of the Baedeker travel guides that are still popular today.
For it was his sober accuracy, driven to the point of pedantry, that revolutionised the way travel literature was written at the time.
He was the first to no longer rely on foreign records and traditions, but instead explored the local conditions himself on extensive travels, described the “oddities” of his destinations and meticulously kept records of prices and offers, from inns and travel stations to the most popular hotels.
In the course of his studies, he also climbed Milan Cathedral, and an acquaintance observed how he put a dry pea from the west into his trouser pocket every twenty steps. In this way, he was able to determine the exact number of steps with a simple multiplication.
“Peas Counter” as he was, he of course did the crosscheck on the descent, and so all the peas moved from his trouser pocket back into his vest.
As nice as this story is, the term “bean counter” has been used for a long time. For as early as 1668 it can be read in Grimmelshausen’s novel “Simplicissimus”, in its original meaning as a synonym for a stingy and miserly person.
And really, the origin of this word can be found in a completely different place, namely in the year 1480 in the city of Munich.
At that time, the construction of the Munich Frauenkirche was in full swing, but the costs exceeded the expected expenses by far and so the church had to look for other sources of income.
For this reason, Pope Sixtus IV ordered that all people who made a pilgrimage to Munich be absolved of their sins, provided they were willing to ask for indulgence and donate at least the wages of one working week.
This trade in indulgences was soon so successful that the magistrate lost track of the number of donors.
So they came up with the idea of hiring a man to throw a pea into a bucket for every pilgrim who passed the Isar Gate (the only way to get to the Frauenkirche).
A task that earned him the beautiful name “bean counter”.