Help transcribe The Bentham Project

Are you interested in law and philosophy and the works of Jeremy Bentham? Can you read old-fashioned, cursive script (18th and 19th century handwriting)? Do you have a little time on your hands and would you like to help and see old manuscripts become accessible to everyone?

Then Transcribe Bentham might be the project for you.

University College London is currently undertaking the monumental task of transcribing all of philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham’s work and they’re looking for volunteers to help them out.

JB wants you by Transcribe Bentham
JB wants you by Transcribe Bentham

Anyone can join Transcribe Bentham, you don’t have to be enrolled at University College London, you don’t even have to live in Britain.

Jeremy Bentham, generally considered the founder of modern utilitarianism, was a very prolific writer, who produced 10 to 20 pages of manuscripts daily until well into his Eighties. So there is still a lot of work to be done to transcribe it all and make it readable and accessible to everyone who can’t read old handwriting.

And yes, Jeremy Bentham is “the auto-icon guy.”

Jeremy Benthams auto-icon at UCL. Phot by Daduzi / Wikimedia
Jeremy Benthams auto-icon at UCL. Phot by Daduzi / Wikimedia

The aim of the project is to produce a new, scholarly edition of all the correspondences and works of Jeremy Bentham, which consist of around 73.000 folios or 36.000.000 words to be transcribed. The project was launched in 2010 and, as of November 2014, around 11.500 folios had been transcribed. So there is still a lot of work to be done. And the kind people at Transcribe Bentham do realise his handwriting’s terrible, so they do provide examples to help you along.

You’ll be tasked with transcribing everything, including margin notations and the like, depending on what manuscript you choose. You’ll get to a free-text box into which you enter your transcriptions and do some basic formatting – they do provide a guide on how to format and encode everything. Once you’re done and submitted your work, your manuscript gets checked by Bentham Project staff, and is either locked and uploaded to the digital repository or left open for further crowdsourcing (in case bits are missing, for example).

There will be no compensation for volunteers, but everybody who actually uploaded satisfactorily transcribed works will be fully acknowledged in the volumes of the Collected Works to which they contributed.

To find out how you can become a part of it and what is involved, check the Transcribe Bentham FAQ’s.  To sign up, follow links to the Transcription Desk.


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