By Tim Causer, on 22 July 2014
When Transcribe Bentham was launched to the public in early September 2010, we had little idea of just how successful the initiative was going to be. It was something of an experiment, and a shot in the dark: would anyone really want to transcribe Bentham’s manuscripts (and encode them in TEI XML) when they are often so infuriatingly complex, both in terms of content and composition?
Yet here we are, almost four years later, and our wonderful volunteer transcribers have just worked on their 10,000th transcript. This is a truly amazing achievement on their part, and the amount of work volunteers have put into the initiative should not be underestimated. Transcribing Bentham is a far from easy task (as we know only too well!), but the care and attention taken by transcribers never ceases to impress us: 92% of these 10,000 transcripts have been approved after checking.
We never thought that we would reach this milestone just so soon. By late March this year, volunteers had worked on an impressive 7,369 transcripts, but since then the transcription rate has exploded, and we have received what is usually a year’s worth of transcription in four months: volunteers have worked on an average of 157 transcripts per week. If that rate of transcription was maintained, then the remaining untranscribed portion of Bentham’s manuscripts could be transcribed in just over a decade – a prospect which was unthinkable only four years ago, and which is only possible thanks to collaboration with volunteer transcribers.
The success of Transcribe Bentham is owed fundamentally to our volunteers; without them, the project would be nothing. The Transcribe Bentham team at UCL, the University of London Computer Centre, and the British Library, are all hugely grateful to transcribers for their efforts, and for so generously giving their time to spend with this philosophically and historically important collection of manuscripts. We are more than a little humbled by their participation.
We would like to publicly celebrate everyone who has taken part in Transcribe Bentham at some point, and an alphabetical list of transcribers can now be found in the Hall of Fame. We are particularly grateful to our fantastic regular contributors who routinely produce such high-quality work for the initiative, and at ever increasing rates. These transcripts are now being uploaded to UCL’s digital Bentham Papers repository, and will be used in the future production of volumes of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. Volunteer efforts will thus make a material difference to scholarship, and increased access to the material.
If you would like to join the ranks of Transcribe Bentham volunteers and help widen access to the Bentham Papers, you can sign up for a volunteer account at the Transcription Desk.
We’re off to break the news to Uncle Jeremy. Don’t worry, we won’t get him too excited: he is 266 years old, after all.
Thanks once more to all Transcribe Bentham volunteers, and to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous funding of the project. Here’s to the next 10,000 transcripts, and beyond!