Archive for the 'Digitisation' Category

Progress update, 8 to 14 November 2014, and masses of new material to transcribe!

By Tim Causer, on 14 November 2014

Welcome along to the Transcribe Bentham progress update for the period 8 to 14 November 2014. During the last seven days not only have volunteer transcribers made further terrific progress, but a whole host of new manuscript images have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk (but more on that later).

11,502 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 102 on this time last week. Of these transcripts, 10,434 (91%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:


Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 225 794 28%
Box 2 470 753 62%
Box 4 0 694 0%
Box 5 199 290 68%
Box 7 0 167 0%
Box 8 0 284 0%
Box 9 6 266 1%
Box 15 75 914 9%
Box 18 3 192 1%
Box 27 350 350 100%
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 1 193 1%
Box 31 18 302 5%
Box 34 38 398 9%
Box 35 286 439 65%
Box 36 32 418 7%
Box 37 31 487 6%
Box 38 59 424 13%
Box 39 11 282 3%
Box 41 83 528 14%
Box 42 79 910 8%
Box 44 52 201 25%
Box 50 166 198 83%
Box 51 379 940 40%
Box 57 18 420 4%
Box 62 57 565 10%
Box 63 120 345 34%
Box 70 301 350 86%
Box 71 663 663 100%
Box 72 613 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 100%
Box 79 199 199 100%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 127 296 42%
Box 98 220 499 44%
Box 100 190 422 42%
Box 106 0 581 0%
Box 107 500 538 92%
Box 110 2 671 1%
Box 115 276 307 89%
Box 116 505 864 58%
Box 117 360 853 42%
Box 118 240 880 27%
Box 119 522 990 52%
Box 120 18 686 2%
Box 121 132 526 24%
Box 122 302 717 41%
Box 123 17 443 3%
Box 139 40 40 100%
Box 149 1 581 0%
Box 150 233 972 23%
Box 169 187 728 25%
Add MSS 537 729 744 97%
Add MSS 538 625 858 72%
Add MSS 539 686 948 72%
Box 540 3 1012 1%
Add MSS 541 220 1258 17%
Overall 11,502 26,796 44%

During the week, another 4,500 images have been uploaded for transcription, covering an enormous variety of subjects.

Box 540 contains correspondence to and from Bentham, and his family and friends, during the years 1784 to 1788. During this period, Jeremy travelled to Russia to visit his younger brother, Samuel, whom he had not seen for the best part of six years, and the letters feature details of Jeremy’s long and eventful journey, as well as the first inklings of the panopticon scheme. Box 4 details Bentham’s response to the Henry Brougham, the Lord Chancellor’s establishment of bankruptcy courts, Box 7 deals with Bentham’s writings on religion and education, while Box 8 covers some of Bentham’s thoughts on colonies and colonisation.

A number of these boxes contain a miscellany of material. Box 9 includes correspondence, the 1824 codicil to Bentham’s will, and John Bowring’s Memoir of Jeremy Bentham, which was memorably described by Leslie Stephen as ‘one of the worst biographies in the [English] language, out of materials which might have served for a masterpiece’. Box 106 contains Bentham’s detailed plans for a refrigerator which he called the ‘Frigidarium’, a discussion of the liberty of the press, plans for a network of ‘conversation tubes’ which would allow the panopticon inspector to speak to any prisoner in their cell, and part of the journal of Bentham’s secretary, John Flowerdew Colls. Box 110 contains some of Bentham’s constitutional proposals for Portugal, Spain and Greece, as well as European poetry and literature collected by Bentham’s literary executor, John Bowring. Finally, Box 149 includes parts and fragments of a number of works, a little about the auto-icon, the 1831 codicil to Bentham’s will, and a description of Bentham’s illnesses during 1826.

We hope that you enjoy looking through this material, and please do let us know if you have any questions about it! More will follow in the next week or so, and there’s no shortage of fascinating material to work through. Thanks to our colleagues at UCL Creative Media Services for digitising the manuscripts, and at the University of London Computer Centre for uploading them.

Thank you, as always, to everyone who has donated their time so generously to TB during the last seven days. It remains as greatly appreciated as ever.

New material to transcribe: panopticon

By Tim Causer, on 18 December 2013

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

UC 119, f. 120: plan of the panopticon prison.
Courtesy UCL Special Collections, image captured by UCL Creative Media Services.

It’s just under a week before Santa comes to visit, but we are delighted to be able to provide transcribers and readers with an early Christmas gift. Two further batches of digitised Bentham manuscripts have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk, both of which pertain to Bentham’s unrealised panopticon penitentiary scheme, which so dominated his life for a number of years.

Box 117 is largely comprised of collectanea, including correspondence, a drawing of the ‘sawing machine’ designed by Bentham’s younger brother, Samuel, and Bentham’s account of his frustrating attempts to purchase the Millbank estate from the Marquis of Salisbury. It also includes Bentham’s letters to George Holford MP, the anti-Benthamite chair of the 1811 Penitentiary Committee, which gave a damning indictment of the panopticon scheme in its report.

Box 119 contains a number of interesting items about the details of the panopticon, including how the prisoners would be employed, how the panopticon would be run by contract management,and how the prison itself would be centrally heated (these manuscripts contain a few rudimentary diagrams of the heating system composed by Bentham). Bentham addresses objections which he expected to be made against the panopticon, and the bulk of the box is comprised of Bentham’s draft penitentiary bill.

Box 119 also contains several drawings and sketches of the panopticon drawn by the architect Willey Reveley, who was commissioned by Bentham to produce the plans based on his designs. A few of these are currently missing, as the manuscripts are on loan to a gallery in Italy, but will be digitised upon their return. A notable sketch is the one below, drawn up by Bentham, in which he reproduces Psalm 139; Bentham was not a believer, but the panopticon intended, to all intents and purposes, to give the prison inspector all the power of a god within the penitentiary.

We hope that you enjoy exploring this material! With our thanks, as always, to our colleagues at UCL Creative Media Services and the University of London Computer Centre, for respectively capturing and uploading the images. Do contact us if you have any questions.

UC 119, f.124. Courtesy of UCL Special Collections, image captured by UCL Creative Media Services. 'Thou art about my path, and about my bed: and spiest all my ways. If I say, peradventure the darkness shall cover me: than shall my night be turned to day. Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me'. (Psalm 139)

UC 119, f.124. Courtesy of UCL Special Collections, image captured by UCL Creative Media Services.
‘Thou art about my path, and about my bed: and spiest all my ways. If I say, peradventure the darkness shall cover me: than shall my night be turned to day. Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me’.
(Psalm 139)


New material to transcribe: Bentham on political economy and religion

By Tim Causer, on 29 October 2013

We are delighted to say that two new batches of material have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk for volunteers to explore and transcribe.

Box 1 contains material pertaining to Bentham’s annuity notes scheme, and date from 1799 to 1801. Bentham spent almost twelve months planning, drafting, and revising a major work entitled A Tract Intituled [sic] Circulating Annuities, which has never been published (though a précis of the text was provided in a work entitled Abstract or Compressed View of a Tract intituled [sic] Circulating Annuities). Bentham hoped that his plan for an interest-bearing circulating currency would provide the means both to reduce, and even eliminate, the national debt, and to inculcate the culture of saving amongst the poor, thus preserving the stability of expectations from the political and financial threats of revolution and national bankruptcy respectively.

The Bentham Project’s Dr Michael Quinn, is currently working on Bentham’s writings on political economy, and an unexpurgated text of Bentham’s Annuity Note scheme will present an exciting resource to scholars and historians of economic thought alike. The work of Transcribe Bentham volunteers has the potential to significantly expedite work on this material, and contribute to its first publication in a forthcoming volume of the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

The second batch of material is Box 5, pertaining to one of Bentham’s works on religion, Church of Englandism and Its Catechism Examined (1818). This work was part of Bentham’s sustained attack on the English political, legal, and ecclesiastical establishments. Bentham always argued that religion should bear no influence upon morals and legislation, and came to suggest that religious belief was used by the clergy to promote their own interests. Bentham was particularly critical of the role of the Church of England in education, whether this was in its schools for the poor, or its domination of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (the ‘two public nuisances’, according to Bentham, ‘storehouses and nurseries of political corruption’). In Church-of-Englandism, Bentham recommended the ‘euthanasia’ of the Church, that is, as ecclesiastical offices became vacant, they should be left unfilled and abolished.

We hope that you enjoy transcribing these manuscripts, and do let us know if you have any queries!

New material to transcribe: Bentham and the foundation of the Thames River Police

By Tim Causer, on 7 October 2013

Bentham’s work on the panopticon during the late 1790s put him in contact with several influential individuals with whom he became friends. These included Patrick Colqhoun, whose works on the police and other statistical studies Bentham greatly admired. The Pool of London – a stretch of the River Thames running from London Bridge to just below Tower Bridge – was in Bentham’s time vital to London’s trading powers, and was filled with wharves and ships. However, theft of cargo was an increasing problem, and in 1797 John Harriot, a Justice of the Peace and a master mariner, worked with Colqhoun and Bentham to persuade the West India Merchants to fund a new police force. The Thames River Police was the first regular, professional police force in the world, was initially under Colqhoun’s direction, and had a permanent salaried staff of 80, and an on-call reserve of 1,000 more. It’s visible patrols were a success in reducing crime, even though a mob attempted to set fire to the police station.

Bentham worked on drafting the 1798 Thames Police Bill, and the manuscripts from Bentham Box 150 demonstrate just how much effort he put into the endeavour. The Bill was enacted in 1800, permanently establishing the Thames River Police. Colqhoun published his Treatise on the Commerce and Policing of the River Thames in 1800.

This material also contains some remarks by Bentham on the prevention of forgery of coins.

We hope that you enjoy exploring these manuscripts!

New material to transcribe: ‘like a great Spider in ye Center of yr. Panopticon’ – the return of Bentham’s prison

By Tim Causer, on 11 September 2013

A further series of fascinating manuscripts have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk: this material from Box 122 of the UCL Bentham Papers details the revival of the British government’s interest in the panopticon penitentiary scheme. As we have mentioned elsewhere, the panopticon was rejected in 1803 as a solution to the problem of treating criminals. Despite his anger at the time, Bentham seemed in 1808 to finally be at peace with this decision, writing to his brother Samuel that ‘JB has next to no expectation of panopticon being set on foot … and at his time of life scarce a wish about it: but that with him it has never been more than a secondary object, his primary object being a reform in the state of the law‘.

However, at the end of 1807 had received a rather rude reminder of the panopticon. The commissioners for auditing the public accounts had requested that Bentham account for the £2,000 of public money voted to him in 1794 for purchasing land on which to build a panopticon. The result of this request was a lengthy and somewhat acrimonious correspondence, some of which can be found amongst these manuscripts: Bentham found it difficult to comply with the commissioners request, not least owing to the passage of time, and his (and Samuel’s) haphazard account-keeping.

Bentham provided some documentation, but this did not satisfy the commissioners, and he was driven to plead with them to accept his verbal testimony. Bentham’s sense of persecution grew: hadn’t the government caused him enough pain over the panopticon? He wrote another account of his treatment, to be found here, bemoaning the commissioners’ unaccountability, and suggesting that he was subjected to ‘the principles of a Venetian Senate … or a Spanish Inquisition‘. Fortunately, the audit board finally accepted Bentham’s testimony in December 1808.

In the following years, the panopticon – somehow – was back on the agenda. Criminals were seen to be convicted at ever-increasing rates, the hulks were notoriously bad, and New South Wales was being viewed as an Arcadia for criminals, rather than as a place of punishment. Though in June 1809, William Wilberforce told Bentham that he was once more going to promote the panopticon, asking him if ‘had still ye Heart to go forward after all your former disappointments‘. Bentham remained very wary: in May 1810, he wrote that he had ‘no such ambition as that of passing the short remainder of my life among the Treasury Porters‘. Wilberforce replied with platitudes, telling Bentham that

After all you have experienced Unless ye way is smooth’d and the doors thrown wide for yr triumphant passage, I would have stir you from ye Chimney Corner … Surely you will not refuse to tend yrself to those who are eager to bring it forward … I am delighted by seeing with my mind’s Eye, your Honour like a great Spider in ye Center of yr. Panopticon‘.

As Janet Semple remarks in her masterful Bentham’s Prison: A Study of the Panopticon Penitentiary (p. 264), ‘This letter did incalculable harm; first, by luring Bentham with false hopes that were to embroil him in further fruitless labour and public humiliation; and secondly in the use of a vivid metaphor to stamp for ever the image of him as a spider in the midst of his penal web’.

The Treasury contacted Bentham around this time, and he confirmed that he was still willing to serve as governor. On 4 March 1811, a committee was appointed to consider the 1779 and 1794 Penitentiary Acts, chaired by George Holford MP, a known anti-Benthamite. Yet Bentham seemed confident now in the panopticon’s success, recalling later in life that: ‘I assumed all along as a matter of course, that the determination of the Committee and thereafter would be favourable to me‘. Bentham was to be disappointed: he gave evidence on 27 March and 1 April (the latter date proving very apt), and faced frequently hostile questioning. Holford’s report, completed in May, was a damning indictment of the panopticon, and the only crumb of comfort was the conclusion that Bentham should receive financial compensation.

Following the rejection, Bentham returned to complaining of sinister interests and ‘an originally preconcerted plan for setting aside Panopticon‘. He submitted a compensation claim for the astonishing sum of £689,062 11s. (over £23 million in today’s money), for lost profits which would have been earned from the panopticon between 1795 and 1813. Bentham finally settled for the not inconsiderable sum of £23,000 (c. £800,000 today). The panopticon scheme was finally dead.

We hope that you enjoy exploring this material, and do let us know if you have any queries!