World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Transcribe Bentham


Transcribe Bentham

Transcribe Bentham
Web address
Commercial? No
Type of site crowdsourced transcription project
Registration Yes
Available in English, French, Latin, Greek
Owner Transcribe Bentham team
Created by Transcribe Bentham team
Launched 8 September 2010
Current status ongoing

Transcribe Bentham is a multi-award-winning 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 1 October 2012, the project is 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via a transcription interface based on a customised MediaWiki, high-quality digital images of UCL's vast collection of unpublished manuscripts written and composed by the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham, which runs to some 60,000 manuscript folios (an estimated 30,000,000 words).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, almost all of the UCL Bentham Papers will be 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 14 November 2014, volunteers had transcribed or partially transcribed 11,502 manuscripts - around 5.5 million words - of which 92% were of the required standard to form a basis for editorial work, and to be uploaded to the digital repository. Weekly 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.

Open-source code

The code for Transcribe Bentham's MediaWiki-based transcription interface is available for reuse and customisation, on an open source basis.[18] It has been implemented by the Public Record Office Victoria for their pilot transcription project.[19]


  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. ^
  19. ^

External links

  • Transcribe Bentham homepage and blog,
  • Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk,
  • T. Causer, J. Tonra, and V. Wallace, 'Transcription Maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham', Literary and Linguistic Computing,
  • T. Causer and V. Wallace, 'Building a Volunteer Community: Results and Findings from Transcribe Bentham', Digital Humanities Quarterly, Vol. 6 (2012),
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.