Transcription Update – 31 March to 27 April 2018

By Louise Seaward, on 1 May 2018

Gather round for our monthly transcription statistics.  Last month we reached a high point of 20,000 pages of Bentham material transcribed by volunteers but thankfully our diligent transcribers show no signs of slowing down!  We are hugely grateful to everyone who has transcribed something for us recently.

Here are the full statistics for the initiative – as of 27 April 2018.

20,258 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 19,306 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 138 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 35 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Project Update – new material to transcribe on Panopticon and punishment

By Louise Seaward, on 26 April 2018

This month we’re showcasing some new material that has recently been uploaded to our Transcription Desk.  Volunteers can now feast their eyes on over 1,500 newly digitised pages of Bentham’s writings, as contained in boxes 108, 143, 157 and 159 of the UCL Bentham Papers.  These papers encompass Bentham’s writings on crime and punishment, as well as some draft pages from his work analysing legal codes.  Our Transcription Desk now holds 90 boxes of Bentham material, comprising more than 44,000 page images!

So what can volunteers expect to find amongst this new material…?

Box 108 is a collection of miscellaneous material written by Bentham in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.  It includes writings on diverse subjects such as colonisation, the French Revolution, political economy and legislation – something for everyone indeed!

Boxes 143 and 159 both focus on the subject of punishment.  Bentham became intrigued by this matter early in his life and started to philosophise about it in the mid-1770s.  He envisioned a penal system where each punishment would be proportionate to the offence and where each offence would be clearly defined and publicly known.  Box 159 also contains some French writings relating to Bentham’s Projet for a complete code of law.

Box 157 is largely centred on the Panopticon prison, one of Bentham’s most notorious ideas.  Bentham planned a new type of prison, where he believed that the nature of the building would help to reform the behaviour of the prisoners.  He envisaged a circular structure of cells, with an inspector stationed in the middle of the prison.  The prisoners would be aware that they could be being watched at any time but would never know exactly when they were being watched.  This would keep them on their toes and on their best behaviour.  The papers in this box provide evidence that Bentham’s ideas were taken seriously by the British government.  There were various negotiations over the costings and location of the prison and as Folio 83 below shows, even an Act of Parliament confirming that the prison would be built.  Unfortunately for Bentham, all these plans never came to fruition.  The Panopticon remains a provocative philosophical idea, even if it was never a physical reality.

Box 157, fol. 83, UCL Bentham Papers, Special Collections, University College London. Image courtesy of UCL Special Collections (Click to enlarge image).

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

Box 108 – miscellaneous

Box 143 – punishment

Box 157 – Panopticon

Box 159 – punishment

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

We wish you all best of luck with your transcriptions.  And if you uncover something interesting, let us know by email and we will gladly feature it the Transcribe Bentham newsletter as our Transcript of the Month.

Technical difficulties on the Transcription Desk

By Louise Seaward, on 18 April 2018

We’re having a few technical issues on the Transcription Desk at the moment and for that we apologise.

Our main issue relates to the display of TEI tags in the transcription text box.  The problem appears to be with nested tags.  When one tag appears inside another, the display in the ‘Preview’ tab and in the saved transcription goes a bit haywire and can include coding like the below:




Take a look at Folio 185 from Box 26 for an illustration of the problem.  All transcribers should rest assured that these errors relate merely to the display of the tags.  Transcripts are still being saved in the correct format and any tags added should still work.

We realise this problem makes it more difficult to check your work and we are working on getting it fixed as soon as we can.  Thank you for your patience in the meantime!

If you notice anything else that is not quite right with the Transcription Desk, please let us know and we will do our best to get it sorted out.

Over 20,000 pages transcribed by volunteers!

By Louise Seaward, on 13 April 2018

Big news at Transcribe Bentham HQ!  Volunteers have now transcribed over 20,000 pages of Bentham’s writings at our online Transcription Desk.

This is a monumental achievement that all our volunteers, past and present, should be incredibly proud of.  It comes only around two years after we hit the 15,000 pages milestone in January 2016.  Through their transcription work, our volunteers have a created a formidable online resource used by scholars inside and outside the Bentham Project, as well as interested members of the public around the world.  Thank you all!









Here are the full statistics for the initiative – as of 30 March 2018 (date of our last update).

20,120 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 19,136 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 163 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 41 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Project Update – Transcribe Bentham, women and citizen science

By Louise Seaward, on 23 March 2018

We were honoured to be invited to present on 19th March 2018 at a UCL event celebrating the participation of women in citizen science and crowdsourcing projects.  Representation of the people in science: women in civic and citizen science brought together an all-female panel of researchers, citizen scientists and volunteers to discuss their different projects.

I gave the audience an overview of Transcribe Bentham and the benefits it brings for scholarship, access to historical material and our volunteers.  Since September 2010, there have been 639 people who have transcribed something at least once on our site (check out our Hall of Fame!).  But the majority of the transcription on Transcribe Bentham has been carried out by around 30 volunteers.  These volunteers are known as our ‘super-transcribers’ and we typically have between 3 and 5 of these users transcribing every week.  According to our latest user survey, the gender balance of our super-transcribers is actually relatively even: 58% of our super-transcribers are male and 42% are female.







I was happy to have one of our most active users alongside me to give her perspective on being a Transcribe Bentham volunteer.  Gill Hague (or ‘ohsoldgirl’) has been contributing to the initiative for many years, transcribing hundreds of pages across that time.  With her permission, I have included an excerpt from her presentation which gives an insight into her experience and some advice for new transcribers:

‘As a freelancer I found I had periods of time where either I was waiting for the phone to ring with news of some work, or I had days on a project where I had nothing specific to do, but I had to be available on the phone at a moments’ notice.   This made it hard to get involved in anything external that required a regular commitment of time, but watching daytime television soon lost its attraction.

In September 2011 I saw a small piece in the Sunday Times about Transcribe Bentham.   With a particular interest in new ways of applying technology – crowdsourcing was a relatively new concept at the time – I was interested to learn more and so logged on to the website.   I had done Economic History at A level so Bentham’s name rang a faint bell and looking at the site I saw parallels with image enabled databases I had previously been involved in developing.   Then we had used OCR to make printed text searchable – here I could see that transcribing made the handwritten text accessible in the same way.   I was encouraged that anyone was welcome to have a go at transcribing, and, after reading the guidance, set out on an initial page.   Submitting this eventually for review, I was very pleased to receive a swift email thanking me for my contribution and encouraging me to do more.

To anyone new to transcribing I would say just have a go.   The handwriting can be challenging but there’s a sense of achievement when you decipher it, and the more you do the easier it becomes.   The more pages you transcribe, the more confident and competent you become with the mark up, and it’s very satisfying when you get it all right and the page renders as you expect.    Once you get your head round the principles it’s really a very logical process.   You’ll get plenty of feedback and encouragement from the Transcribe Bentham team and make a valuable contribution to their work.’

It was great to see another citizen scientist presenting at the event.  Jo Hurford is a local artist and community leader and is part of a group of Euston residents who have made attempts to raise concerns about air quality and the environment in opposition to the plans for the HS2 high-speed railway.  The group worked with Professor Muki Haklay from UCL Extreme Citizen Science who taught them how to measure air quality along proposed construction routes and their findings proved that the impact will be severe.  They also tried to highlight the need to save greenspaces by knitting scarves for trees – you may have seen some of them in Euston Square Gardens.  Jo praised the citizen science movement for helping the residents to arm themselves with facts and keep going no matter what.

We also heard from several researchers who are facilitating other citizen science projects.

Dr Cindy Regalado, also from UCL Extreme Citizen Science reported on the myriad events organised as part of the EU-funded Doing It Together Science initiative, which is designed to engage the public in bio-design and environmental science.  These include workshops, science cafes, film nights and most intriguingly the Stick Insect meeting in Belgium where amateurs and scientists presented and curated an exhibition about stick insects!

Dr Cindy Regalado (UCL) summarises just one of a variety of citizen science events organised by ‘Doing it Together Science’.


Dr Alice Bell, science writer and director of communications at climate charity 10:10, spoke to us about two related subjects.  First, she explored the radical science movement of the 1970s, which was arguably one of the first attempts to involve the public in science and change perceptions of the subject.  Second, she talked about her current work in climate change action, helping schools and community groups to set up solar panels  on their own buildings.

‘Science for People’ an image from Dr Alice Bell’s presentation.


We were also interested to hear from Professor Sarah Bell, Professor of Environment Engineering at UCL.  Professor Bell is the director of Engineering Exchange, which is a network of engineers and specialists who work to make UCL’s Engineering expertise available for local community projects.  Only 9% of engineers in the UK are women and this presentation suggested that the experience of being a minority might help to explain why female engineers are often more drawn to public engagement and citizen science work.

Professor Sarah Bell (UCL) talks about opening up engineering expertise

It was fascinating to gain understanding of the way in which volunteers are engaged in the scientific world and we hope we can develop some closer connections with ongoing citizen science initiatives at UCL.  Thanks to the audience who contributed interesting comments and questions, the organisers at UCL Extreme Citizen Science and and the Doing it Together Science project and to Dr Charlene Jennett, researcher at UCLIC for chairing the event.
















This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 709443.