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collaborative transcription initiative, which is digitising and making available digital images of Bentham’s unpublished manuscripts through a platform known as the ‘Transcription Desk‘.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.

Transcribe Bentham is now part of the EU-funded Recognition and Enrichment of Archival Documents (READ) project.  The READ project is focused on making archival material more accessible through the development of Handwritten Text Recognition technology.  READ is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 674943.

Progress Update – 26 November to 2 December 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 2 December 2016

Happy Friday!  We’re here to recap the latest statistics from the past week’s action on Transcribe Bentham.  We need to take this moment to say a big thanks to all our hard-working transcribers.

17,244 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 45 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 16,193 (93%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 608 795 76%
Box 2 711 753 94%
Box 4 31 694 4%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 5 169 2%
Box 8 21 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 115 459 25%
Box 11 12 480 2%
Box 12 97 615 15%
Box 14 4 514 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 16 7 254 2%
Box 18 50 193 25%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 32 0 160 0%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 181 427 42%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 47 0 466 0%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 52 1 609 1%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 307 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 75 0 77 0%
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 148 296 50%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 794 865 91%
Box 117 492 853 57%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 539 990 54%
Box 120 502 686 72%
Box 121 150 526 28%
Box 122 309 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 17 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 94 381 24%
Box 149 87 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 197 728 27%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 986 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 32 701 4%
Add MS 35549 24 366 6%
Add MS 35550 82 637 12%
Overall 17,244 37,697 45%

Progress Update – 19 to 25 November 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 25 November 2016

Hi everyone!  It’s been a very busy week at Transcribe Bentham – the volunteers are working at a cracking pace at the moment.  We need to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone who has been transcribing!

17,199 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 68 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 16,151 (93%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 601 795 75%
Box 2 709 753 94%
Box 4 30 694 4%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 5 169 2%
Box 8 21 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 115 459 25%
Box 11 12 480 2%
Box 12 83 615 13%
Box 14 4 514 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 16 7 254 2%
Box 18 47 193 24%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 32 0 160 0%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 181 427 42%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 47 0 466 0%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 52 1 609 1%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 307 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 75 0 77 0%
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 148 296 50%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 794 865 91%
Box 117 492 853 57%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 539 990 54%
Box 120 486 686 70%
Box 121 150 526 28%
Box 122 309 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 17 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 94 381 24%
Box 149 87 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 197 728 27%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 986 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 32 701 4%
Add MS 35549 24 366 6%
Add MS 35550 82 637 12%
Overall 17,199 37,697 45%

Progress Update – 12 to 18 November 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 18 November 2016

Hello and welcome to the statistics update for this week.  The volunteers are continuing to work hard with their transcription and we owe them a huge thanks for their efforts.

17,131 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 59 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 16,083 (93%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 591 795 74%
Box 2 707 753 93%
Box 4 29 694 4%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 5 169 2%
Box 8 21 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 114 459 24%
Box 11 12 480 2%
Box 12 75 615 12%
Box 14 4 514 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 16 7 254 2%
Box 18 44 193 22%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 32 0 160 0%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 181 427 42%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 47 0 466 0%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 52 1 609 1%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 307 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 75 0 77 0%
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 148 296 50%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 794 865 91%
Box 117 492 853 57%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 539 990 54%
Box 120 459 686 66%
Box 121 150 526 28%
Box 122 309 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 16 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 94 381 24%
Box 149 87 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 196 728 26%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 986 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 32 701 4%
Add MS 35549 11 366 3%
Add MS 35550 81 637 12%
Overall 17,131 37,697 45%

Progress Update – 5 to 11 November 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 11 November 2016

Hi everyone.  We’re back again with those all-important stats.  The transcribers have been firing through the manuscripts this week.  A big thanks as always to everyone who has transcribed something lately .

The Bentham Project has been busy this week too.  Have you seen Dr Tim Causer’s blog on Bentham’s square Panopticon?  And check out our Twitter page to see what went on at last night’s launch of The Bentham Community Late at the William Morris Gallery where ‘happiness’ was the theme of discussion!

Back to the stats.  17,072 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 52 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 16,066 (94%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 584 795 73%
Box 2 705 753 93%
Box 4 28 694 4%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 5 169 2%
Box 8 21 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 114 459 24%
Box 11 12 480 2%
Box 12 60 615 8%
Box 14 4 514 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 16 7 254 2%
Box 18 41 193 21%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 32 0 160 0%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 181 427 42%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 47 0 466 0%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 52 0 609 0%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 307 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 75 0 77 0%
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 148 296 50%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 794 865 91%
Box 117 486 853 56%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 539 990 54%
Box 120 436 686 63%
Box 121 150 526 28%
Box 122 309 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 16 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 94 381 24%
Box 149 87 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 196 728 26%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 986 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 32 701 4%
Add MS 35549 11 366 3%
Add MS 35550 80 637 12%
Overall 17,072 37,697 45%

‘Position not form’: a square panopticon prison?

By Tim Causer, on 10 November 2016

We generally assume that Bentham’s panopticon prison, had it been constructed, would have been a circular building. This is, of course, a wholly fair and unsurprising assumption given the numerous plans and drawings which Bentham had prepared when lobbying the government, and the lengthy descriptions of the proposed building in his writings. However, a letter written in 1803 might suggest that Bentham did not consider the shape of the building all that important, and even recognised that its circular nature may have been counterproductive.

 

UC 119, f. 120: plan of the panopticon prison

Plan of the panopticon prison, Bentham Papers box 119, fo. 120. UCL Special Collections.

During either late December 1802 or early January 1803, Bentham had sent the First and Second Letters to Lord Pelham (i.e. a part of Bentham’s critique of convict transportation, Panopticon versus New South Wales) to David Collins, the former Judge-Advocate of the colony. Bentham had, of course, relied heavily upon Collins’s Account of the English Colony in New South Wales in his own writings about the colony and transportation. Collins had returned to England in 1796, and on 4 January 1803 was commissioned as lieutenant-governor of a proposed new settlement at Port Phillip (in modern-day Victoria).

On 27 January Bentham invited Collins to dinner, where he would also meet ‘My friend Charles Bunbury who like you and me is one of the fancy (I mean not the Pidgeon fancy but the Convict fancy)’. Collins had evidently expressed an in interest in constructing a prison in the new settlement under his command, and Bentham suggested if he was serious then ‘I flatter myself that by means of my Brother and the professional assistance he has at his command’ he could provide Collins with draughts of the panopticon, which would be more helpful than the general outline contained in his book Panopticon; or the Inspection House.

Bentham did indeed approach his brother Samuel, then Inspector-General of Naval Works, on the matter on 22 February. He noted that he had dined with Collins on three occasions, who had proven ‘very good par with me’. Jeremy hoped that Samuel might provide Collins with draughts, as with his book ‘and a little νους [nous], he might be able to do without a draught; but the νους, I fear, is wanting.’

The draughts do not appear to have been prepared by the time Collins, on 4 April, wrote to Bentham ‘in lieu of a personal Farewell’. He planned to leave London on 7 April and would sail again for the Antipodes, and having been so busy ‘with both public and private Concerns’ he had been prevented from receiving ‘the Hints for my pursuing the Panopticon System, which you was so good as to say you would prepare for me.’ However, Collins assured Bentham ‘that my Prison shall if possible be a circular one.’

Add. MS 33,544 fo. 57 (British Library Bentham Papers)

David Collins’s farewell letter to Bentham, 4 April 1803. Add. MS 33,544 fo. 57 (British Library Bentham Paperss)

Bentham seemed quite fond of Collins, writing in reply the following day that ‘I have never been fond of leave-taking [… and] in the present instance it would have been a painful one.’ He teased Collins about the nature of his mission, hoping that in a few years he would ‘return to us in all the glory of triumphant colonization laden with the spoils of the insulated continent—kangaroo and wombat skins.’ However, he took on a chiding tone when he turned to the topic of prisons:

your time for thinking seriously of them is not yet come: if it had been, you would not, in alluding to the Panopticon construction, have taken circularity for the characteristic principle of it. Position not form: centrality of the keeper’s lodge, with a commanding view of every part of the space into which a prisoner can introduce himself (by the help of peep-holes, blinds, or any other contrivance which will enable the keepers to see upon occasion without being seen,) such is the real characteristic principle.

Context was also important: Bentham recognised that even in London, a circular panopticon was ‘attended with difficulties, which in general operate so as to increase the expense.’ In the new settlement under Collins’s command, ‘with your limited resources—I should expect to find these difficulties insurmountable’. Bentham supposed that Collins would have to rely upon logs rather than bricks and:

Logs grow in strait lines, or thereabouts […] Your circle, if of logs, would at any rate, be a polygon, if it were not a square. But why should it not be a square? If you have an open yard, as I suppose you will, the boundary wall may be composed off the four sides of another square, concentric with, and therefore including, the two others.

It is intriguing to note that in a blank space at the end of Collins’s farewell letter to Bentham (see above). someone has sketched, very roughly in pencil, what could be a square panopticon. It seems unlikely that this was Collins himself, given that he had a circular prison in mind. In signing off, Bentham wished Collins well and hoped to be one of ‘the select, who are to receive the earliest communication of your res gestae [i.e. Collins’s deeds].’

Add. MS 33,544 fo. 58 (British Library Bentham Papers)

The blank space and possible ‘square panopticon’ at the end of Collins’s farewell letter to Bentham. Add. MS 33,544 fo. 58 (British Library Bentham Papers)

Collins reached Port Phillip in October 1803, though soon decided that it was an unsuitable place for a settlement and relocated to the Derwent River in Van Diemen’s Land. Collins, overworked and exhausted, was found dead at Government House in Hobart Town on 24 March 1810, aged 54. The only evidence that Bentham heard from Collins in Van Diemen’s Land is contained in a letter of November 1805, in which he noted the arrival of a ‘packet of seeds’ from Collins. Bentham forwarded these the Foreign Secretary Charles James Fox; according to his niece, Caroline, Fox’s garden was ‘in the highest state of perfection, and he fonder of it than of the H. of Commons.’ (As a final aside, in 1805 Bentham proposed to Caroline Fox but was very gently rejected – though that is a story for another day).

[See The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham), ed. J.R. Dinwiddy, vol. vii., pp. 188, 188-90, 205, 219-20, 220-23, and 335-7]