Transcribe Bentham is a an award-winning participatory project based at University College London. Its aim is to engage the public in the online transcription of original and unstudied manuscript papers written by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the great philosopher and reformer. We would like to encourage all those who have an interest in Bentham or those with an interest in history, politics, law, philosophy and economics, fields to which Bentham made significant contributions, to visit the site. Those with an enthusiasm for palaeography, transcription and manuscript studies will be interested in Bentham’s handwriting, while those involved in digital humanities, education and heritage learning will find the site intriguing. Undergraduates and school pupils studying Bentham’s ideas are particularly encouraged to use the site to enhance their learning experience.
Transcribe Bentham emerged out of initial discussions between Professor Philip Schofield, the Director of the Bentham Project, and Martin Moyle of UCL Library Services, regarding the production of a digital Bentham resource for a forthcoming Arts and Humanities Research Council funding call. Martin proposed the establishment of a resource to facilitate crowdsourced transcription of the Bentham Papers, and a potential partnership between the Bentham Project, UCL Library Services, UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities, and the University of London Computer Centre. After an initial meeting between Professor Schofield, Martin, Dr Melissa Terras (UCL DH), and Richard Davis (ULCC), hosted by Library Services, the project consortium was formed.
There are 60,000 papers written by Bentham in UCL’s library but several thousands of these papers, potentially of immense historical and philosophical importance, have yet to be transcribed and studied. By transcribing this material for the first time, you will be doing two important tasks:
- making Bentham’s thought accessible to the world at large
- and helping UCL’s Bentham Project, which was founded in 1959 to produce the new, authoritative edition of the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham
Access the Transcription Desk, where you can create a user account which will give you transcribing privileges. You can then select a manuscript to view and transcribe, save your work, and return to view your own contributions. You can interact with other users by creating a social profile and by sharing ideas in the discussion forum. There is a quickstart guide to using the tool and detailed guidelines on how to transcribe the manuscripts. You can contact us for general advice, help with a specific problem or for further information.
Why get involved?
Your contributions to Transcribe Bentham will make a genuine difference.
- You will be helping to preserve a collection of enormous international historical and philosophical importance. Your transcripts of the material will be uploaded to UCL’s digital Bentham Papers repository, where you can view them alongside the manuscript images.
- By the same token, your transcripts will also widen access to the manuscripts, so that anyone, anywhere in the world can search the collection. The richness of the repository will increase as more and more transcripts are added. You will also help to sustain the study of palaeography and manuscripts.
- Your contributions will also form the basis of future scholarship, including printed editions of the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. You may discover new ideas which will question how Bentham’s thought has been interpreted in the past. All volunteers who transcribe manuscripts will be acknowledged in the relevant volumes of The Collected Works.
- Transcribe Bentham volunteers are proof that a partnership between the general public and academia works!
Bentham’s ideas are studied as part of a range of A-levels and Scottish Highers and school teachers, including those who teach junior classes, will find Transcribe Bentham an interesting and useful topic to incorporate into their lessons. Read our guidance on how this transcription initiative can be used by schools and our information on class trips to the Bentham Project.
Transcribe Bentham is hosted by the Bentham Project in the Faculty of Laws, UCL, in collaboration with UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Library Services and the University of London Computer Centre.