Archive for the 'Events' Category

Progress update, 16 to 22 March 2013, and this week’s finds

By Tim Causer, on 22 March 2013

Welcome to the progress update for the period 16 to 22 March, during which time further excellent progress has been made: 19,530 words (including TEI mark-up) have been transcribed during the past seven days.

5,273 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 38 on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 4,999 (94%) are complete – nearly there!

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

  • Box 2: 394 manuscripts transcribed of 753 (52%)
  • Box 27: 350 of 350 (100%)
  • Box 35: 279 of 439 (63%)
  • Box 50: 135 of 198 (67%)
  • Box 51: 358 of 940 (38%)
  • Box 62: 53 of 565 (9%)
  • Box 70: 257 of 350 (73%)
  • Box 71: 663 of 663 (100%)
  • Box 72: 608 of 664 (91%)
  • Box 73: 151 of 151 (100%)
  • Box 79: 198 of 199 (99%)
  • Box 95: 120 of 147 (81%)
  • Box 96: 526 of 539 (97%)
  • Box 97: 52 of 296 (17%)
  • Box 98: 212 of 499 (42%)
  • Box 100: 146 of 422 (33%)
  • Box107:  93 of 538 (17%)
  • Box 115: 275 of 307 (89%)
  • Box 116: 365 of 864 (42%)
  • Box 139: 38 of 38 (100%)
  • Overall: 59% of the 8,925 manuscripts currently uploaded to the website have been transcribed thus far.

Volunteers have again made a number of interesting finds among the material. Joy Lloyd has transcribed more of the panopticon manuscripts from Box 107: ‘The Sotimion, or Establishment for the preservation of Female delicacy and reputation‘, was situated just down the road from the ‘Nothotrophium, or Asylum for the innocent offspring of clandestine forbidden love’. In the vast panopticon area, Bentham even envisaged a ‘Panopticon-Hill Tavern’, to entertain visitors to both the panopticon penitentiary and the Sotimion. Convicts would maintain the connecting roads and tend to the flower verges, and a ‘fish-pond’  with ‘the water-lily and other beautiful aquatics’ would be another attraction. There would be ‘Fountains of Beer Punch & Wine worked with compressed Air’ for ‘entertainment of the populace’, and Bentham also described how visitors would be admitted to the Sotimion.

In another manuscript transcribed by Joy, it appears that the Sotimion would have had a coffee-room, from which any woman could be black-balled, and the Panopticon complex would have its own burial ground.

Elsewhere, in quite a topical few manuscripts, Peter Hollis transcribed Bentham’s ‘leading principles’ of newspapers. These included ‘Universality, Authenticity, Impartiality, Decency’, and that any newly established daily newspaper should ‘be perfectly independent of all parties, and [be] strictly impartial’, and that ‘all profligacy, personal abuse, and scurrility should be rigorously excluded’. Perhaps Bentham would have made a useful witness for Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into press standards…

Lea Stern continues to transcribe nuggets of gold about Bentham’s views on transporting convicts to New South Wales, and Keith Thompson has worked on manuscripts relating to Bentham’s plans for a ‘School of Legislation’.

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



perhaps news to those witnesses who gave evidence to Lord Justice Leveson last year.

Bake it like Bentham

By Tim Causer, on 15 March 2013


Adding 1d (and more) of labour

As regular followers of the Transcribe Bentham Facebook and Twitter accounts will know, volunteers have recently been transcribing a series of recipes compiled (presumably by Bentham) for the panopticon prison kitchen.

As part of the Journal of Victorian Culture‘s historical bake-off competition, I recently had a go at producing Bentham’s recipe for ‘baked apple pudding’, with mixed results (though I’m glad to say that no-one at the Bentham Project was poisoned as a result of tasting it). You can read about this attempt at the JVC website.

Below, you will find links to all of the manuscripts containing Bentham’s cooking tips and recipes. Should you feel suitably inspired to make something yourself, we would be delighted to host your account of it and any pictures here on the Transcribe Bentham blog – just drop us an email!

General cooking directions












Progress update, 13 to 19 October 2012

By Tim Causer, on 19 October 2012

Welcome to the progress update for the period 13 to 19 October 2012, during which time further good progress has been made.

4,568 manuscripts have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 48 on last week’s total. Of these transcripts, 4,329 (94%) are complete, which is up 43 on this time last week.

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

  • Box 2: 346 manuscripts transcribed of 532 (65%)
  • Box 27: 348 of 350 (99%)
  • Box 35: 274 of 439 (62%)
  • Box 50: 89 of 198 (44%)
  • Box 51: 350 of 940 (37%)
  • Box 62: 53 of 565 (9%)
  • Box 70: 176 of 250 (50%)
  • Box 71: 651 of 665 (97%)
  • Box 72: 606 of 664 (91%)
  • Box 73: 151 of 151 (100%)
  • Box 79: 198 of 199 (99%)
  • Box 95: 102 of 147 (69%)
  • Box 96: 526 of 539 (97%)
  • Box 97: 36 of 288 (12%)
  • Box 98: 15 of 499 (3%)
  • Box 100: 102 of 433 (23%)
  • Box 115: 266 of 307 (86%)
  • Box 116: 241 of 864 (27%)
  • Box 139: 38 of 38 (100%)
  • Overall: 55% of the 8,164 manuscripts uploaded to the website have been transcribed thus far.

Box 50 proved to be the most heavily transcribed during the past week, with Box 116 not that far behind.

If you find yourself at a loose end and wish to get your toes tapping, why not download a song (recorded in 1967) about Bentham?

Thank you, as ever, to all those who have generously donated their time and effort to Transcribe Bentham during the past seven days. It remains greatly appreciated.

Help improve Transcribe Bentham

By Tim Causer, on 1 October 2012

From today—as part of a project entitled the Consolidated Bentham Papers RepositoryTranscribe Bentham will be  supported for two years by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications Programme. A significant part of this work will be to make modifications and improvements to the transcription interface, in order to make the transcription process more straightforward for volunteers. The code for the updated Transcription Desk software will, like its first iteration, be made available on an open-source basis for others to re-use and customise to meet their own needs.

Through a survey carried last year (the results of which will soon be published in Digital Humanities Quarterly), volunteers have already given us a few ideas for alterations which they would like to see made. These include:

  • Changes to the way the markup is added. Responses to the survey indicate that adding of XML tags was a significant issue, and may have dissuaded some from participating. though the Transcription Toolbar was designed to make adding markup as easy as possible, markup was regarded by more than a few respondents as an extra complication when trying to decipher Bentham’s handwriting (which is, after all, the purpose of Transcribe Bentham). One solution is to introduce, as an alternative, a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get interface, so that transcribing will be like typing in a word-processor. In this scenario, the transcription toolbar would be done away with, and transcribers would not have to concern themselves with visible markup at all. Volunteers would—just by way of example, these are not set in stone—indicate a line break simply by hitting return, a paragraph by pressing return twice, and indicate underlinings or deletions by selecting the portion of text, pressing a button, and the underlining/deletion would be rendered while typing. The XML tags would thus remain behind the scenes and would not clutter the transcript.
  • A more flexible image viewer. The current interface, where the image is alongside the text box where the transcript is entered, was also seen as problematic. We will aim to introduce a more flexible image viewer (image box above text box? A floating image window? a resizable image window?). A floating transcription toolbar would also prevent constant scrolling up and down.
  • Distinguishing between locked and fresh material. It is also clear from volunteer responses that we need to make it easier to distinguish between complete and locked, partially transcribed, and untranscribed manuscripts. While we have introduced lists (e.g. the untranscribed manuscript list) and they have their uses, these have to be updated manually and—owing to human error—are not always fully accurate. We will look to introduce some form of automated system to tell the different types of manuscript apart (some form of colour coding?)

Sadly, we can’t do anything about the state of Bentham’s handwriting, and/or composition! Changes which would be made are all about making life easier for transcribers, so this will be very much evolution rather than revolution. Volunteers will be invited to test out any alterations made to the interface.

These are just a few of the ideas we have gleaned from volunteer suggestions, but we are keen to hear more (crowdsourcing inspiration, if you will). We would love to hear from interested onlookers, as well as those who have had hands-on experience with the transcription interface. What alterations would you like to see made to the Transcription Desk, or would you recommend be made? If you are a volunteer transcriber, what changes would be most beneficial to you?

We would like to hear any ideas which you might have. You can leave comments here on the blog, in the Transcription Desk’s discussion forum, or we would be delighted to hear from you via email. Alternatively, you can leave your suggestions anonymously on this survey.

We look forward to hearing from you, and do let us know if you have any questions!

Bentham Project receives grant from the Mellon Foundation

By Tim Causer, on 2 July 2012

We are delighted to announce that the Bentham Project and Transcribe Bentham have been awarded a grant of $538,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under their Scholarly Communications programme, for a period of two years from 1 October 2012. We will build upon the on-going successes of Transcribe Bentham, and continue the collaboration between the Bentham Project, UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Library Services, UCL Creative Media Services, and the University of London Computer Centre. We are now also pleased to welcome a new partner to the project: the British Library.

The British Library’s involvement is hugely important. Transcribe Bentham was initially established under an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant. This would fund the digitisation of around 30% of UCL’s vast Bentham Papers collection, which runs to c. 60,000 manuscript folios, or an estimated 30 million words. The Mellon funding will now allow us to digitise much of the remainder of the UCL collection and—fulfilling a long-held ambition—all of the British Library’s 12,500 folios (c. 6 million words) of Bentham material. Hence the new programme’s official name: the Consolidated Bentham Papers Repository (CBPR) which will reunite this priceless collection—digitally—for the first time since Bentham’s death, and create a free-to-access historical and philosophical resource of great significance.

Alongside this mass digitisation programme, the important process of crowdsourced transcription will continue. We will be able to implement significant improvements to the transcription interface, many of which have been suggested to us by volunteers, which will make the process of transcription and using the site more straightforward. As a result, we hope that even more volunteers will join those already participating, who are at present transcribing at a terrific rate.

We are extremely grateful to the Mellon Foundation trustees for this support, and especially the Scholarly Communications programme officers for seeing us through the application process so smoothly. We look forward to working with the Foundation, our partners and the project’s volunteer transcribers, and talking about the work in the weeks and months to come!