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Announcing the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative

By Melissa M Terras, on 8 February 2010

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved at UCL

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved at UCL

UCL Laws, in conjunction with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Department of Information Studies, and UCL Library Services, are pleased to announce the launch of the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative, which has secured £260,000 funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s highly competitive Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact (DEDEFI) scheme.

Since the 1950s, The Bentham Project has been working towards the production of a new scholarly edition of the works and correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the influential jurist, philosopher, and social scientist, whom A.J.P. Taylor described as `the most formidable reasoner who ever applied his gifts to the practical questions of administration and politics’. However, more than  60,000 pages of Jeremy Bentham’s writings, held in UCL Special Collections, have not yet been transcribed and made available to those interested in his work.

The Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative is a highly innovative and novel attempt to aid in the transcription of Bentham’s work. A digitisation project will provide high quality scans of the papers, whilst an online transcription tool will be developed which will allow volunteers to contribute to the transcription effort: providing a “crowdsourcing” tool which will be used to manage contributions from the wider audience interested in Bentham’s work, including school students, and amateur historians.

The use of such a tool for the transcription of cultural and heritage material is novel, and UCL’s CIBER group will monitor the use of the online tool, providing an in-depth study of how such a crowdsourcing application was used during the year- long project.

Work on the project begins on March 1st 2010, and the project shall be shortly hiring for two research assistants.  The online tool will be launched mid-summer 2010, when you can contribute to transcribing the works of Jeremy Bentham yourself!

5 Responses to “Announcing the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative”

  • 1
    bowerbird wrote on 8 February 2010:

    > The use of such a tool for the transcription
    > of cultural and heritage material is novel

    actually, it’s not.

    there have been, and are, existing implementations,
    and some of us have studied this quite extensively.

    perhaps you need to set up a wiki for some input?


  • 2
    MelissaTerras wrote on 10 February 2010:

    Thanks for your comment, Bowerbird. Of course, when the project launches properly (in March) we’ll be setting up a proper website, etc. Probably even, as you suggest, a wiki.

    In the meantime, do post any links to things we should know about. I’m really not aware of any other large scale transcription project in the arts and humanities that has undertaken digitisation and had the manuscripts transcribed by crowdsourcing. Its not an idle claim – I will retract it if it isnt true!

    I’m aware of the more procedural stuff (V+A going image cropping, etc) but not full scale transcription (although I do know about projects such as SudaOnline, etc). Care to share? (or please do email me!: m.terras@ucl.ac.uk). We’d love to hear about your work.

    best, Melissa

  • 3
    Joanne Evans wrote on 25 February 2010:

    You might like to have a look at the National Library of Australia’s Australian Newspapers – http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home. This is using crowd sourcing to correct the OCR of digitised Australian newspapers and with some contributors correcting hundreds of thousands of lines of text it has been an enormous success. The software they use is available as is as open source and I know that they would be interested in looking at how this could be a generic service for other types of transcription.

  • 4
    Richard M. Davis wrote on 1 March 2010:

    […] web-based transcription is new, but we’ve yet to find any substantial comparable examples. A comment on UCL’s Digital Humanities blog teases us with the prospect of information about other similar projects, but fails to provide even […]

  • 5
    Marjorie McLellan wrote on 21 July 2010:

    […] In her keynote address at the Digital Humanities 2010 Conference, Melissa Terras, Senior Lecturer in Electronic Communication in the Department of Information Studies, University College London, and Deputy Manager of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, sets the stage with a description of the crowd sourcing Bentham Transcription Initiative. […]

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