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Transcribing Jeremy Bentham

Valerie Wallace, The Bentham Project, University College London

In his will Jeremy Bentham, the great philosopher and reformer who lived from 1748 until 1832, requested that after his death his body be preserved in a box and put on display. He suggested that an accompaniment to this ‘auto-icon’ might be his ‘unedited and unfinished manuscripts, lodged in an appropriate case of shelves’. Bentham would have approved therefore of the Transcribe Bentham initiative, a project whose aim is to digitise these unedited and unfinished papers, of which there are 60,000, and put them on what is arguably an appropriate case of shelves for the twenty-first century: the internet.

Transcribe Bentham is run by the Bentham Project in the Faculty of Laws at University College London in colloboration with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. The Bentham Project is responsible for the publication of the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, an authoritative edition of the philosopher’s writings based on the original manuscript papers. The aim of the Transcribe Bentham initiative is to digitise and crowdsource the transcription of these manuscripts. The Transcribe Bentham team has designed a Transcription Desk using MediaWiki where users can log-in, view, and transcribe Bentham’s papers, encoding their transcripts in TEI-compliant XML. The project aims to digitise at least 12,500 manuscripts in a year. This presentation will discuss the project’s experience of crowdsourcing and the quantitative and qualitative data generated by the initiative, offering thoughts on the future of collaborative manuscript transcription and the impact of crowdsourcing on an academic editorial project.

If you have questions or comments on this talk, feel free to leave them below.

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