Welcome to Transcribe Bentham

By Tim Causer, on 27 March 2013

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

‘Many hands make light work. Many hands together make merry work‘, wrote the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) in 1793. In this spirit, we cordially welcome you to Transcribe Bentham, a double award-winning collaborative transcription initiative, which is digitising and making available digital images of Bentham’s unpublished manuscripts through a platform known as the ‘Transcription Desk‘. There, you can access the material and—just as importantly—transcribe the material, to help the work of UCL’s Bentham Project, and further improve access to, and searchability of, this enormously important collection of historical and philosophical material.

This is an exciting opportunity to make a genuine difference to research and scholarship by contributing to the production of the new edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, and to help create for posterity a vast digital repository of Bentham’s writings. We warmly invite you to take part in this endeavour: no special skills are required, you do not require approval to participate, and every contribution—no matter how small—is of great value to Transcribe Bentham.

Please consult the Transcribe Bentham FAQ for more details on taking part.

You can also read more about Jeremy Bentham, his thought and his importance, and consult resources on deciphering historical handwriting.

Find out more about the consortium behind Transcribe Bentham, and talks and publications by the project team.

UCL closure: 16 April to 22 April 2014

By Tim Causer, on 15 April 2014

UCL closes for its Easter break at 5pm on Wednesday 16 April, and reopens again on Wednesday 23 April. During this period, the Transcription Desk will remain fully available as usual, though it will be unstaffed during this period.

Submissions received after 16 April are unlikely to be checked until UCL re-opens, when normal service will be resumed; we apologise in advance for any inconvenience which this may cause to transcribers. The next progress update will be issued on Friday 25 April.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has contributed to Transcribe Bentham, our Facebook and Twitter followers, and readers of the project blog for their support, efforts and interest. We hope that you all have a good break, and will see you very soon!

Progress update, 5 April to 11 April 2014

By Kris Grint, on 11 April 2014

Welcome to the progress update for the period 5 April to 11 April 2014. It’s a real pleasure to report that the numbers in this week’s report feature some of the highest stats ever recorded  for Transcribe Bentham. Overall, a colossal 35,971 words of Bentham text were transcribed, along with a further 9,685 words of TEI XML.

7,645 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 180 on this time last week. 7,309 of these transcripts have now been locked, up a remarkable 186 on the last progress update. We would like to congratulate all our volunteers who have not just surpassed, but completely obliterated, the record for the number of transcripts produced in one week. 2014′s rate of transcription shows no sign of slowing down, and is now at an average of 68 transcripts per week.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 93 794 11%
Box 2 465 753 61%
Box 5 151 290 52%
Box 15 18 914 2%
Box 27 350 350 100%
Box 34 5 398 1%
Box 35 286 439 65%
Box 36 4 418 1%
Box 41 70 528 12%
Box 42 57 910 6%
Box 50 159 198 76%
Box 51 371 940 39%
Box 62 55 565 10%
Box 70 295 350 84%
Box 71 663 663 100%
Box 72 612 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 100%
Box 79 199 199 100%
Box 95 122 147 82%
Box 96 531 539 98%
Box 97 79 296 26%
Box 98 216 499 43%
Box 100 182 422 41%
Box 107 465 538 86%
Box 115 276 307 89%
Box 116 497 864 57%
Box 117 231 853 27%
Box 118 55 880 6%
Box 119 79 990 8%
Box 121 120 526 21%
Box 122 280 717 38%
Box 139 40 40 100%
Box 150 95 972 9%
Box 169 141 728 19%
Add MSS 537 109 744 14%
Add MSS 538 97 858 11%
Add MSS 539 26 948 2%
Overall 7,465 21,451 34%

 

The British Library’s Bentham papers, which contain thousands of letters between various members of the Bentham family, continue to be of great interest to our transcribers. Not only is Jeremiah, Jeremy’s father, continuing to write love-letters to his wife Alicia, but he even records a touching scene involving little Jeremy (or ‘Jerry’ as he was then called):

Your Sweet obliging Answer gave me a pleasure far beyond any
I have or cod have enjoyed since your Absence — and your little Jerry —
Boy I asure you seem’d to take a part in it with his Papa upon my telling him it was a Letter from his dear Mama — he cryed Kish,
Kish — and Kiss’d it several times and when I ask’d him what it was — he cryed Pape (for Paper) Mama

Unfortunately tragedy would soon strike the Bentham family, and in 1759 Alicia Bentham died. George Darling wrote to Jeremiah expressing his commiserations:

I was extremely surpris’d… & greatly affected,
at hearing of that Dear, Sweet Innocent
leaving this world & going to a better — I do assume You, Dear Sir, that I most heartily
sympathise with you in your truly great loss,
& affliction;

Many thanks to Diane Jonker for transcribing these letters, which have been the cause of one or two tears here at the Bentham Project.

In 1760, Jeremy went up to Oxford University at the tender age of twelve. He was reputedly the smallest boy at the University, and according to John Lind, writing to Jeremiah:

He has stood the
Stare of the whole University as his Youth
& the littleness of his Size naturally attract
the eyes of every one.

It’s been a tough old week for Jeremy! Our thanks to Iris van der Zwaag for transcribing that one.

Thank you, as always, to everyone who has contributed to Transcribe Bentham during the last seven days. The consistent progress made by our volunteers in transcribing the collections continues to amaze and inspire all of us here at UCL.

New material to transcribe: education and Constitutional Code

By Tim Causer, on 8 April 2014

We are delighted to say that a further eight boxes of UCL’s Bentham manuscripts have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk, and are now available to explore and transcribe. (This is another 2,500 images, fact fans). Boxes 18, 29, 31, 37, 38, 39, 44, and 57 contain material pertaining to Bentham’s proposed Chrestomathic school and his thoughts on education, his massive, unfinished Constitutional Code, his writings on a proposed Civil Code, and much more besides!

You can access this material, and descriptions of the contents of the various boxes, via the list of untranscribed manuscripts.

Progress update, 29 March to 4 April 2014

By Tim Causer, on 4 April 2014

Welcome to the progress update for the period 29 March to 4 April 2014, during which time further fantastic progress has been made by Transcribe Bentham volunteers. 21,908 words of Bentham text were transcribed this week, along with a further 6,590 words of TEI XML.

7,465 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 96 on this time last week. 7,123 of these transcripts have now been locked, up 97 on the last progress update. This is phenomenal work on the part of transcribers: since Transcribe Bentham launched in September 2010, an average of 40 manuscripts have been worked on each week; since the start of 2014, this has increased to an average of 57 per week.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 92 794 10%
Box 2 465 753 61%
Box 5 149 290 51%
Box 15 18 914 2%
Box 27 350 350 100%
Box 34 4 398 1%
Box 35 286 439 65%
Box 36 4 418 1%
Box 41 70 528 12%
Box 42 56 910 6%
Box 50 158 198 76%
Box 51 371 940 39%
Box 62 55 565 10%
Box 70 295 350 84%
Box 71 663 663 100%
Box 72 612 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 100%
Box 79 199 199 100%
Box 95 122 147 82%
Box 96 530 539 98%
Box 97 74 296 25%
Box 98 216 499 43%
Box 100 182 422 41%
Box 107 463 538 86%
Box 115 276 307 89%
Box 116 497 864 57%
Box 117 219 853 25%
Box 118 55 880 6%
Box 119 67 990 6%
Box 121 119 526 21%
Box 122 280 717 38%
Box 139 40 40 100%
Box 150 95 972 9%
Box 169 139 728 19%
Add MSS 537 28 744 3%
Add MSS 538 59 858 6%
Add MSS 539 6 948 1%
Overall 7,465 21,451 34%

Volunteers have made some quite interesting finds among the British Library’s Bentham papers. These include love-letters between Bentham’s parents, Jeremiah and Alicia, in which Jeremiah writes:

Cou’d my Thoughts, as easily as they are conceiv’d, be committed
to paper, you my dearest Creature! who have so large a Share of ‘em, had need have
no other Employment than reading my Letters for they wod. furnish a Packet every
hour, & you wod daily receive Expresses by the Dozen; such possession have you
taken of my Mind that nothing can find admittance there but what some
way or other relates to your dearself; whether I am riding in my Coach
or walking in my Garden, wherever I am, or whatever I am doing,
I can never forbear thinking how much happier I shod be was I still
blessed with your sweet Company, & how forlorn I am for want of it:
while I was present with you Time bore me on his rapid Wing, so
swiftly did the delightful hours pass on, but no sooner was I gone from
you than that Wing became pinion’d & coud no longer fly, or was
rather chang’d into leaden Feet, so slowly do the Sluggish Minutes
now creep forward — such is the Difference caus’d by mighty Love!

Many thanks to Peter Hollis for transcribing that one. A list of these tender missives can be found on the index to Add MSS 33537.  It is interesting to note that Jeremiah’s mother did not approve of his marrying Alicia, whom she apparently thought was beneath her son’s social standing. Though Jeremiah chose love over money, he did not extend such sympathy to Jeremy when he fell in love with Polly Dunkley, and his disapproval was largely the cause for the ending of that relationship.

This week, we also say goodbye to our good friend and colleague, José Martin of the University of London Computer Centre, who is leaving to take up a new position. José was instrumental in implementing the upgraded transcription interface last year, and the ongoing success of the project. He has our very best wishes for the future, and we shall miss his presence at our project meetings!

Thank you, as always, to everyone who has contributed to Transcribe Bentham during the last seven days. It is as warmly appreciated as ever.

Progress update, 22 to 28 March 2014

By Tim Causer, on 28 March 2014

Welcome along to the progress update for the period 22 to 28 March, a week in which the greatest number of manuscripts have been worked on by volunteers since Transcribe Bentham was launched in September 2010! Our 7,000th transcript was also locked this week, just to add to the achievement of TB volunteers.  27,205 words of text were transcribed this week, along with an additional 11,055 words of TEI XML.

7,369 manuscript have now been transcribed, which is an increase of 111 on this time last week. Of these transcripts, 7,026 (95%) are complete after having been through our quality-control procedures.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 85 794 10%
Box 2 465 753 61%
Box 5 149 290 51%
Box 15 17 914 2%
Box 27 350 350 100%
Box 34 4 398 1%
Box 35 286 439 65%
Box 36 4 418 1%
Box 41 70 528 12%
Box 42 55 910 6%
Box 50 156 198 76%
Box 51 370 940 39%
Box 62 55 565 10%
Box 70 295 350 84%
Box 71 663 663 100%
Box 72 612 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 100%
Box 79 199 199 100%
Box 95 122 147 82%
Box 96 530 539 98%
Box 97 73 296 24%
Box 98 215 499 42%
Box 100 182 422 41%
Box 107 461 538 85%
Box 115 276 307 89%
Box 116 497 864 57%
Box 117 207 853 24%
Box 118 51 880 5%
Box 119 63 990 6%
Box 121 119 526 21%
Box 122 280 717 38%
Box 139 40 40 100%
Box 150 95 972 9%
Box 169 129 728 17%
Add MSS 537 18 744 2%
Add MSS 538 20 858 2%
Add MSS 539 5 948 1%
Overall 7,369 21,451 34%

 

This has been an extremely exciting week for Transcribe Bentham, not only because of the fantastic rate of transcription, but because we were able to upload to the website the first batch of the British Library’s Bentham manuscripts. These volumes contain correspondence to and from Bentham and his wider family, and intellectual associates. Already, volunteer Simon Croft has transcribed a letter from Jeremy Bentham to his younger brother, Samuel, in which he discusses the matchmaking efforts of their father, Jeremiah. Jeremy had been introduced to one Sarah Stretton and reported that though she had ‘a most enchanting set of teeth’, her ‘features are too large for her face’ and she was ‘dressed most unbecomingly’. Nevertheless, Jeremy remained keen ‘to have an opportunity of being better acquainted with her’. Oh, Jeremy.

As Dr Kris Grint remarked of the British Library’s Bentham Papers, in a post on the British Library’s Untold Lives blog, ‘some of this correspondence has not been read since its original composition’, and so there is the genuine opportunity to ‘fundamentally shape and illuminate our understanding of Bentham’s life and relationships’. The definitive biography of Bentham still remains to be written.

223 years ago today – 28 March 1791 – nine convicts, taking with them two infant children and a whole host of supplies, stole a six-oared open boat from Sydney Harbour and begin a 3,000-mile voyage to Timor. This episode is the most well-known of all escapes by convicts transported to Australia, and the manuscript of the only first-hand account – the Memorandoms of James Martin – was acquired by Jeremy Bentham, and is part of his vast archive here at UCL. The Memorandoms is now available online for the first time via the Bentham Project website, featuring an introduction, detailed annotation, and links to the original manuscripts. UCL Media Relations has also filmed a video about this fascinating story.

Thank you, as always, to everyone who has given their time and effort to Transcribe Bentham during the last seven days. It is as greatly appreciated as always.