Archive for the 'Digitisation' Category

Project update – new material to transcribe! Bentham on Penal Code and Radicalism

By Louise Seaward, on 8 September 2017

Good afternoon and welcome back to the blog.  Transcribe Bentham is hitting a big milestone today – it’s our 7th birthday!  We first launched the website as a six-month experiment on 8 September 2010 and here we are all these years later.  If our volunteers keep transcribing at their current rate, we may hit 20,000 transcripts by the end of 2017.  What a huge achievement and a massive amount of groundwork for future Bentham scholarship. Our most sincere thanks go to everyone who has participated over the years.

We’re here with a nice birthday present for our transcribers – some new material from the Bentham collection!  Boxes 67, 68 and 137 have just been uploaded to the Transcription Desk.  This means that we now have 85 boxes and more than 42,000 pages of Bentham’s available online.

These new boxes contain Bentham’s writings on a penal or criminal code and drafts of a short work called Radicalism not dangerous.

Bentham strongly believed in the importance of clear legal codes and returned to this subject throughout his life.  His penal or criminal code would form one part of his intended pannomion, a complete body of utilitarian law.

Radicalism not Dangerous was a short tract written around 1819-20 in which Bentham put forward his own brand of liberal radicalism.  By this point, he was committed to the cause of political reform but felt that change should be slower and more linked to existing institutions than that which was desired by popular radicals of the early nineteenth century.


UCL Special Collections, Bentham Papers, box cxxxvii, fo. 229, Radicalism not dangerous, 9 April 1820 [Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections]

More information on the contents of each of these boxes and access to the manuscripts can be found on the following pages:

Box 67- penal code

Box 68 – penal code

Box 137 – Radicalism not dangerous

Users can also view pages from these boxes through the Untranscribed Manuscripts page.

We invite anyone to rifle through this new material – and we look forward to seeing what interesting bits and pieces might be uncovered!

Our thanks go to Chris Riley, a PhD student at the Bentham Project, who helped to research the content of these boxes.

Project update – join us at the Bentham Hackathon with IBM

By Louise Seaward, on 23 August 2017

We’re here with news of an exciting event which will take place in October 2017.  UCL have teamed up with the technology company IBM to organise a ‘Bentham Hackathon‘, where participants can work together to explore how digital tools can help us to research Bentham’s philosophy.

For anyone unfamilar with the term, a hackathon is portmanteau of the words ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’.  It originally referred to an intensive meeting where groups of computer developers collaborated on software projects.  The meaning of a hackathon has now expanded and is often applied to cultural or educational events with a technical element, which are designed to generate new ideas and collaborations.  For more on hackathons, have a look at Wikipedia or the useful ‘How to Guide for hackathons in the cultural sector’ produced by the Europeana Space project.

The Bentham Hackathon will take place over the weekend of 20-22 October 2017 at UCL BaseKX.  The Bentham Project, in association with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Innovation and Enterprise, will be working with IBM to explore the following question:

How can digital technologies help us to research Bentham’s philosophy?


The Bentham Hackathon is an intriguing opportunity for participants to play around with thousands upon thousands of images, transcripts and texts of Bentham’s writings, many of which have been produced in the course of the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing initiative.  Let’s see how these amazing resources can be explored and analysed with IBM’s cutting-edge technologies!

We have set four suggested challenges for participants in the Hackathon to work on – although other ideas may emerge in the course of the event.

  1. How can we use keyword searching to explore Bentham’s writings?
  2. Can we use technology to decipher Bentham’s difficult handwriting?
  3. Can we build a user-friendly interface for navigating and transcribing documents?
  4. Can we build a more user-friendly version of the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing platform?

Anyone interested in these questions is very welcome to join us at the Bentham Hackathon.  The Hackathon is a free event and there are no pre-requisites for participation.

For technical types, this is a great chance to work with IBM and learn new skills.  Those interested in history, philosophy and Bentham can also give their input to help ensure that digital tools work to enhance learning and research in the humanities. Any Transcribe Bentham volunteers who are close to London might also find the event interesting – your knowledge of Bentham and the process of transcription would be invaluable!

The Hackathon will last for the weekend, starting with an evening presentation on Friday 20 October.  Catering will be provided and participants can get involved in the whole weekend, or just pop in for a while.

The Bentham Hackathon will help us to showcase Bentham’s enormous contribution to philosophical thought, including the way in which his ideas on education inspired the founders of UCL.  And we are hopeful that the innovations developed over the course of this weekend will suggest some new ways to use digital technologies in humanities research.

For more information, check out the Bentham Hackathon webpage or contact us.

New material to transcribe: correspondence, procedure, juries, petitions and Latin America

By Louise Seaward, on 10 February 2017

Sound the klaxon, we have new material on the Transcription Desk!  Five new boxes are now available for any new or existing transcribers to explore.  Boxes 13, 26, 54, 60 and 81 have been uploaded.  This means that we now have 80 boxes and more than 40,000(!) pages of Bentham’s writings on our Transcription Desk.

These new boxes contain a mixture of Bentham’s correspondence and legal writings.  Much of the material reflects Bentham’s fascincation with rising new democracies in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.  In the early nineteenth century, Bentham was keen to play a direct role in the codification of new systems of law in these regions.   These papers also include various elements of Bentham’s crusade for legal reform.  He wanted to tighten the jury selection process and had the idea of using petitions to compel the British Parliament to remodel the judicial establishment.

Elements of the Art of Packing, 6 September 1809 [Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections]

UCL Special Collections, Bentham Papers, box xxvi, fo. 66, Elements of the Art of Packing, 6 September 1809 [Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections]

More information on the contents of each of these boxes and access to the manuscripts can be found on the following pages:

Box 13 – correspondence

Box 26 – juries

Box 54 – legal procedure

Box 60 – Latin America

Box 81 – petitions

Users can also view pages from these boxes through the Untranscribed Manuscripts page.

We invite you to take a look through these boxes and see what you can find to transcribe.  Why did Bentham feel that packed juries obstructed liberty of the press?  How convincing were his plans to codify new laws in Spain and Portugal?  Could you have been persuaded to sign one of Bentham’s petitions calling for legal reform?

New material to transcribe: politics, ethics, legal reform, correspondence

By Louise Seaward, on 11 October 2016

We’re here today with some exciting news – seven new boxes of Bentham manuscripts have just been added to the Transcription Desk!  The new material is contained in boxes 12, 14, 16, 32, 47, 52 and 75.  These boxes consist of 2695 new images of Bentham’s writings – freshly uploaded and ready for any volunteers to explore and transcribe.

These boxes contain intriguing material for anyone interested in Bentham’s life and work.  We have Bentham’s correspondence with close friends and international acquaintances from the United States, South America, Egypt and Greece.  Bentham’s drafts of civil, criminal and procedure codes are also available – these formed part of his plan for a ‘Pannomion’ or complete code of law.  We also have Bentham’s writings on ethics and human psychology, which are considered crucial to his theory of utilitarianism.

Bentham's letter to the Editor of the National Calendar of the United States, 5 August 1821, UCL Special Collections, Bentham Papers, xii, fol. 12

Bentham’s letter to the Editor of the National Calendar of the United States, UCL Special Collections, Bentham Papers, xii, fo. 35 (Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections)

More information on the contents of each of these boxes and access to the manuscripts can be found on the following pages:

Box 12 – correspondence

Box 14 – writings on deontology and ethics

Box 16 – criminal code

Box 32 – civil code

Box 47 – evidence

Box 52 – procedure code

Box 75 – legal reform

Users can also view pages from these boxes through the Untranscribed Manuscripts page.

We look forward to seeing how our volunteers get on with this material – which papers will be most popular and what new insights will be uncovered?

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.