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Transcribe Bentham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Transcribe Bentham
Transcribe Bentham logo.png
Type of site
crowdsourced transcription project
Available inEnglish, French, Latin, Greek
OwnerTranscribe Bentham team
Created byTranscribe Bentham team
Launched8 September 2010
Current statusongoing

Transcribe Bentham is a crowdsourced manuscript transcription project, run by University College London's Bentham Project,[1] in partnership with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Library Services, UCL Learning and Media Services, the University of London Computer Centre, and the online community. Transcribe Bentham was launched under a twelve-month Arts and Humanities Research Council grant.

For two years from October 2012, the project was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's 'Scholarly Communications' programme, and the project consortium has been expanded to include the British Library.[2]


Transcribe Bentham was launched in September 2010. The project makes available, via a transcription interface based on a customised MediaWiki, high-quality digital images of UCL's vast collection of unpublished manuscripts written and composed by the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham, which runs to some 60,000 manuscript folios (an estimated 30,000,000 words). Under the Mellon Foundation grant, the remainder of the UCL Bentham Papers were digitised, along with all of the British Library's own collection of Bentham manuscripts, some 12,500 manuscript folios (or an estimated 6,000,000 words).

The project recruits volunteers to assist in transcribing the material, and thereby contribute to the Bentham Project's production of the new edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. Volunteer-produced transcripts are also uploaded to UCL's digital Bentham Papers repository,[3] in order to widen access to the collection, and ensure its long-term preservation.


Volunteers can sign-up for a user account at the Transcription Desk.[4] Once registered, they are given transcriber privileges. The volunteer then selects a manuscript, and is presented with a manuscript image alongside a free-text box, into which he or she enters their transcript (which can be saved at any time). Volunteers are also asked to add some basic formatting to their transcripts, and encode their work in Text-Encoding Initiative-compliant XML using a specially designed transcription toolbar. Using this, the volunteer can highlight a piece of text, or a position in the text, and click a button on the toolbar to identify a particular characteristic of that chosen portion. These include line breaks, paragraphs, unusual spellings, and frequent additions, deletions and marginalia present in the manuscripts.

When a volunteer is happy with his or her transcript, it is submitted to Transcribe Bentham project staff for checking. Changes are made to the text and code, if necessary, and staff decide whether or not the transcript has been completed to a satisfactory degree for uploading to the digital repository. If it is decided that no further appreciable improvements can be made, the transcript is locked for further editing and converted to an XML file. However, if staff decide that a submitted transcript is incomplete - i.e. if it is partially transcribed, or there are a number of missing or unclear words - then it will remain unlocked for further crowdsourcing.

Work is currently ongoing to make improvements and modifications to the transcription interface.

As of 4 January 2019, volunteers had transcribed or partially transcribed 21,307 manuscripts - around 10.5 million words - of which 94% were of the required standard to form a basis for editorial work, and to be uploaded to the digital repository. Monthly progress updates are issued via the Transcribe Bentham blog.[5]

Media coverage and prizes

The work of Transcribe Bentham has been reported upon by the international media. This coverage includes a feature article in The New York Times,[6] The Sunday Times,[7] The Chronicle of Higher Education,[8] Deutsche Welle World[9] radio, and Austria's ORF1 radio.[10]

In September 2011, Transcribe Bentham was honoured with an Award of Distinction in the Digital Communities category of the Prix Ars Electronica, the world's foremost digital arts competition.[11] In its report, the Digital Communities jury noted that the Transcribe Bentham transcription interface has 'the potential to become a standard tool for scholarly crowdsourcing projects', and that Transcribe Bentham as a whole has the 'potential to create the legacy of participatory education and the preservation of heritage or an endangered culture'.[12]

Transcribe Bentham was also nominated for the 2011 Digital Heritage Award,[13] along with:

In November 2012, Transcribe Bentham came second in the Knetworks 'Platforms for Networked Innovation Competition',[14] which sought to identify the 'most innovative web-based platform enabling regional innovation for public, private or research organizations'.[15]

Transcribe Bentham was featured on BBC Radio 4's PM programme[16] and the BBC News website[17] on 27 August 2013. The report discussed how volunteers transcribed a series of recipes which were collated for Bentham's proposed panopticon prison, and how one - a 'Devonshire Pie' consisting of potatoes, tripe, onions, spleen, lungs, and gooseberries - was made by the Michelin-starred St John Smithfield restaurant. The recipes were published in 2014 as Jeremy Bentham's Prison Cooking: A Collection of Utilitarian Recipes.[18]

Open-source code

The code for Transcribe Bentham's MediaWiki-based transcription interface is available for reuse and customisation, on an open source basis.[19] It has been implemented by the Public Record Office Victoria for their pilot transcription project.[20]


  1. ^ University College London's Bentham Project,
  2. ^
  3. ^ UCL's digital Bentham Papers collection,
  4. ^ Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk,
  5. ^ Transcribe Bentham homepage and blog, Transcribe Bentham
  6. ^ P. Cohen, 'For Bentham and Others, Scholars Enlist Public to Transcribe Papers', 28 December 2010,
  7. ^ R. Kinchen, 'One Stir and I'll Discover a Galaxy', 12 September 2011,
  8. ^ T. Kaya, Crowdsourcing Project Hopes to Make Short Work of Transcribing Bentham, 13 September 2010,
  9. ^ R. Powell, 'Philosophy Fans Pitch in to put British thinker's manuscripts online', 4 February 2011,,,14809726,00.html and,,14808024_start_0_end_0_type_audio_struct_3126_contentId_6424149,00.html
  10. ^ 'Create Your World', 25 July 2011,, and Matrix, 29 January 2012,
  11. ^
  12. ^ B. Achaleke, G. Harwood, A. Koblin, L. Yan, and T. Peixoto, 'Guinea pigs and apples: statement of the Digital Communities Jury', in H. Leopoldseder, C. Schöpf, and G. Stocker, Prix Ars Electronica International Compendium: CyberArts 2011, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, p. 206.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Radio 4 PM report, 27 August 2013,
  17. ^ BBC News video report, 27 August 2013,
  18. ^ UCL (2018-05-17). "Jeremy Bentham's Prison Cooking:". Bentham Project. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  19. ^
  20. ^

External links

This page was last edited on 31 January 2020, at 20:44
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