Contents of this article
At present Connected Histories includes only some of the transcriptions which will eventually be created by the Transcribe Bentham project. The remaining transcripts will be added when they are completed.
Transcribe Bentham is a participatory project which recruits volunteers to transcribe the thousands of previously unpublished Bentham papers which are held by University College London Library's Special Collections; this collection runs to some 60,000 manuscript folios, or an estimated 30 million words. The British Library holds a further 12,500 folios, or an estimated 6.5 million words.
Currently, over 4,700 manuscripts have been transcribed and are included
in Connected Histories. Transcribe Bentham forms a part of UCL's
long-running Bentham Project (founded in 1959), which is producing the
new critical edition of
The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham
Transcripts produced by volunteers will form the basis for future volumes of the edition.
Bentham was a major figure in legal philosophy, the founder of modern
doctrine of utilitarianism, a theorist of representative democracy, and
the originator of contemporary notions of surveillance through his
proposed 'panopticon' prison. Bentham is also well-known for requesting
that his mortal remains be preserved and put on display; his auto-icon ('self image') now
sits in a wooden box and dressed in his clothes, in UCL's South Cloisters.
Bentham's manuscript papers consist of drafts and notes for both
published and several substantial unpublished works, correspondence, and
other ephemera. Major topics addressed include crime and punishment,
convict transportation, law, moral philosophy, political economy, and
religion. The subject matter relates primarily to Britain, but Bentham
corresponded with, and wrote about, people and governments all over the
world, including Australia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Libya, Portugal,
Russia, Spain, and the United States.
The majority of the collection is in English, though there are
substantial parts of the collection written in French. Bentham also
occasionally wrote in Latin and Ancient Greek.
Strengths and weaknesses
The transcripts provided constitute only a fraction of the surviving Bentham papers (ultimately, the full manuscript collection will be available from UCL Library's digital Bentham Papers repository). The manuscripts transcribed don't focus on any particular subject, and they are not currently grouped according to the content of his published works. For a deeper understanding of Bentham's ideas, the papers should be consulted alongside the existing published editions of his papers.
The transcriptions may not be particularly accurate, both because they are carried out by volunteers (though they have been checked by editors) and because Bentham's handwriting became very difficult to read in his later years.
The text has been manually transcribed and linked to original page
images to facilitate checking, and encoded in Text-Encoding Initiative
compliant XML. Structural (paragraphs, line-breaks, page-breaks) and
compositional (deletions, interlineal additions, marginal notes)
features of the manuscripts have been encoded.
About the project
Transcribe Bentham is hosted by the Bentham Project, and produced in
collaboration with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Library
Services, UCL Creative Media Services, and the University of London
Computer Centre. Transcribe Bentham was established under a twelve
month AHRC grant (April 2010 to May 2011).
For two years from 1 October 2012, Transcribe Bentham is supported by
a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's 'Scholarly
Communications' programme, and the British Library has also joined the
project consortium. This phase of the project will see almost all of the
UCL Bentham Papers digitised, as well as all of the Bentham manuscripts
held by the British Library; all of the images will be stored in a
single digital repository, uniting the collection for the first time
since Bentham's death. Significant improvements will also be made to the
Transcribe Bentham has over 2,500 registered users, among whom are a
core group of volunteers producing high-quality transcripts on a regular