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UCL Centre for Digital Humanities



Announcing the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative

By Melissa M Terras, on 8 February 2010

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved at UCL

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved at UCL

UCL Laws, in conjunction with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Department of Information Studies, and UCL Library Services, are pleased to announce the launch of the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative, which has secured £260,000 funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s highly competitive Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact (DEDEFI) scheme.

Since the 1950s, The Bentham Project has been working towards the production of a new scholarly edition of the works and correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the influential jurist, philosopher, and social scientist, whom A.J.P. Taylor described as `the most formidable reasoner who ever applied his gifts to the practical questions of administration and politics’. However, more than  60,000 pages of Jeremy Bentham’s writings, held in UCL Special Collections, have not yet been transcribed and made available to those interested in his work.

The Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative is a highly innovative and novel attempt to aid in the transcription of Bentham’s work. A digitisation project will provide high quality scans of the papers, whilst an online transcription tool will be developed which will allow volunteers to contribute to the transcription effort: providing a “crowdsourcing” tool which will be used to manage contributions from the wider audience interested in Bentham’s work, including school students, and amateur historians.

The use of such a tool for the transcription of cultural and heritage material is novel, and UCL’s CIBER group will monitor the use of the online tool, providing an in-depth study of how such a crowdsourcing application was used during the year- long project.

Work on the project begins on March 1st 2010, and the project shall be shortly hiring for two research assistants.  The online tool will be launched mid-summer 2010, when you can contribute to transcribing the works of Jeremy Bentham yourself!