Archive for August, 2013

Progress update, 24 to 30 August 2013

By Kris Grint, on 30 August 2013

Welcome to the progress update for the period 24 to 30 August 2013, which marks the end of an exciting week for Transcribe Bentham. Progress made by our volunteer transcribers remains very high: 8,539 words of Bentham text have been transcribed during the last week, as well as 3,657 words of TEI XML.

6,013 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 38 on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 5,721 have met the required quality-controls and are complete, which is up 34 on this time last week. Breaking through the 6,000 manuscript barrier is a significant milestone for Transcribe Bentham, and we are also on course to soon reach 3 million transcribed words: an incredible feat that would simply not be possible without the help of our volunteer transcribers.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

Significant progress this week was made by volunteers on box 121, which reveals a wealth of content relating to Bentham’s anger at the failure of his Panopticon prison scheme. Bentham’s dealings with government institutions – including descriptions of him accosting the likes of Charles Long, junior secretary to the Treasury – can be explored in fine detail within this set of manuscripts.

Finally, members of Transcribe Bentham were featured on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme this week, and also in a video on the BBC News website. Renowned chef Fergus Henderson of the St. John Restaurant in Smithfield cooked up one of Bentham’s recipes from the Panopticon papers in box 107 whilst Tim Causer, Melissa Terras and Michael Quinn of UCL discussed the life, legacy and manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham. The recipe in question – a Devonshire pie containing tripe, spleen, lungs and gooseberries – was surprisingly tasty, and even good enough to be considered for inclusion on the St. John dinner menu! Listen to an audio recording of the Bentham feature.

Progress update, 17 to 23 August 2013

By Tim Causer, on 23 August 2013

Welcome to the progress update for the period 17 to 23 August 2013, during which time terrific progress has been made by volunteer transcribers: 14,775 words of Bentham text have been transcribed during the last week, along with a further 5,978 words of TEI XML.

5,975 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 58 on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 5,687 have met the required quality-controls and are complete, which is up 56 on this time last week. We are now only 25 away from having our 6,000th volunteer-transcribed manuscript!

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

We talked last week of a few niggles with the Transcription Desk which were being worked on; happily, some of these have now been resolved. You no longer have to enter anything in the text field when submitting a transcript, and the submission window will now open in a new window when it is clicked. We are still working on the points system, so please do bear with us – and thank you for your patience in the meantime.

More material was uploaded to the Transcription Desk this week, which lays bare the extent of Bentham’s anger towards the British government for abandoning his panopticon penitentiary scheme.

As always, thanks to everyone who has generated their time so generously to Transcribe Bentham during this last week. We look forward to seeing you on the other side of our 6,000th transcript!

New material to transcribe: the panopticon’s failure and Bentham’s anger

By Tim Causer, on 21 August 2013

A new batch of extremely interesting Bentham manuscripts has just been made available on the Transcription Desk. Box 121 contains a great deal of interesting material relating to Bentham‘s panopticon prison scheme, or rather its failure. This batch of manuscripts, composed mostly in 1802, illustrate Bentham’s anger and sense of betrayal towards the British legislature which, despite having passed the 1794 Penitentiary for Convicts Act, failed to build Bentham’s prison. In Bentham’s eyes, the panopticon had been thwarted by the failure to find a site, first at Battersea Rise, thanks to the opposition of George Spencer (the 2nd Earl Spencer), and then at Tothill Fields owing to the opposition of Richard Grosvenor (1st Earl Grosvenor). Thanks to the vested interests of landlords, Bentham ended up purchasing a small and boggy site at Millbank, and became aware that politicians had little real commitment to the panopticon.

In June 1803, after a campaign of many years, it was clear that the panopticon was to be abandoned. The scheme’s failure was the greatest disappointment of Bentham’s life: ‘They have murdered my best days’, he remarked. The experience left him incensed at the treachery of British politicians, and he turned his attention to detailing their perfidy. According to Bentham, the 1794 Penitentiary Act was for no ‘better or other intention than of serving as a bait for gulling me out of money’’, and in JB/115/145/001, he wrote:

My hairs, already grey, are pointing to the grave. It remains for me to try whether my country be as devoid of faith and feeling, as those whom the jumble of events has given to it for its rulers … It may then be said—simple neglect would have been sufficient: disappointment and ruin, at the end of five years of treachery and oppression, were too much’.

Box 121 contains some of Bentham’s angry outpourings, in an unpublished text entitled A Picture of the Treasury under the Administration of the Rt. Hon. W. Pitt and the Rt. Hon. H. Addington with a sketch of the Secretary of State’s Office under the reign of the Duke of Portland. Written in 1802 and 1803, this is a near-contemporary account of Bentham’s dealings with men in high office, albeit one told from Bentham’s point of view. (From the other side, Charles Long, the junior secretary to the Treasury, came to hate the sight of Bentham hanging around the Treasury, waiting to attempt meetings with him).

It was perhaps during this period that Bentham fully developed the idea of ‘sinister interests’ – that legislators did not necessarily act in the interests of the happiness of those they ruled, but rather to satisfy their own vested interests. By transcribing this set of manuscripts, you will be going some way to exploring this theory, and the timing of Bentham’s conversion into a political radical, convinced of the need for a representative parliament with universal adult suffrage. It seems likely, as Prof. Philip Schofield contends, that it was ‘the panopticon experience which began to convince him [Bentham] that nothing worthwhile could be achieved through the existing political structure in Britain’. (Schofield, Bentham: A Guide for the Perplexed, Bew York, 2009, pp.12-13).

We hope that you enjoy exploring this rich material, and will be happy to help with any questions you may have!

Progress update, 10 to 16 August

By Tim Causer, on 16 August 2013

Welcome to the Transcribe Bentham progress update for the period 10 to 16 August, during which time further good progress has been made by volunteer transcribers. 6,344 words of Bentham text were transcribed during the past seven days, along with a further 2,717 words of TEI XML.

5,917 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is 26 up on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 5,631 have been accepted and are locked, which is an increase of 25 on this time last week.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

Regular transcribers may have noticed a few niggles with the upgraded Transcription Desk: for example, the link from the user page to your talk board is currently not available, and nor are points and ranks showing up on the user pages at the moment. As a result, we haven’t been able to update the leaderboard for a few weeks. But please do rest assured that your points are being tallied, and that these problems are being worked upon and will soon be ironed out. If you come across any further problems, then do contact us and we can look into them.

The new Transcription Desk also allows you to gain detailed feedback on your submitted transcripts. If you wish to see what changes have been made to your transcripts after checking by Transcribe Bentham staff, then please do consult our guide on how to do so.

Panopticon exhibition poster

Panopticon exhibition poster

Finally, the Panopticon: Experimental Tales of Jeremy Bentham exhibition, co-ordinated by the Design with Heritage team, opened here at UCL yesterday evening.We are delighted to say that the exhibition showcases the work of Transcribe Bentham volunteers, and displays many of the manuscripts which they have transcribed and explore.

The exhibition displays ‘facsimile manuscripts from UCL Special Collections … enhanced by projected images and text, weaving a different tale for each visitor’. It’s an excellent presentation, open 1 to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, until 5 September, and we highly recommend entering the very atmospheric venue to find out more about Bentham’s life and work.

What with the Panopticon exhibition, and the Bentham manuscripts and transcripts on display in UCL’s Octagon Gallery, the work of volunteer transcribers has never been better publicised. We do, however, hope to reach an even wider audience in the next few weeks. All we can say at the moment is: who would have guessed that tripe could taste so good?

Thank you, as always, to everyone who had so generously donated their time to Transcribe Bentham during the last seven days. It remains very much appreciated by us all.

Progress update, 3 to 9 August 2013

By Tim Causer, on 9 August 2013

Welcome to the Transcribe Bentham progress update for the period 3 to 9 August 2013, during which time further excellent progress has been made. 11,386 words of Bentham text were transcribed during the last seven days, along with a further 4,469 words of TEI XML.

5,816 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, up 30 on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 5,616 (95%) are now complete and locked after passing the quality control process. In a few weeks’ time, our 6,000th manuscript will have been a worked on, which will be a quite incredible achievement on the part of volunteer transcribers.

We are delighted to say that some new material to transcribe has been uploaded to the Transcription Desk: Box 42 contains further material relating to Bentham’s massive, unfinished Constitutional Code, which comprises the most important statement of Bentham’s theory of representative democracy. This tranche of manuscripts deals mostly with the judiciary and ministries.

Thank you, as always, to everyone who has given their time and effort so generously to Transcribe Bentham over the last seven days. It remains greatly appreciated by us all.