Presentation Open Access
Established at UCL in 1959 in order to produce the new authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, the renowned philosopher and reformer, the Bentham Project is a centre of excellence in textual editing and legal and historical scholarship. To date, thirty-four of a projected eighty volumes have been published in the edition, which is based upon works Bentham printed or published during his lifetime, and upon works found in his unpublished manuscripts. The Bentham Papers—consisting of around 85,000 manuscript pages held by UCL Library and 15,000 by the British Library—is only rivalled by the papers of Karl Marx as the most important collection of unexplored philosophical material in the canon of European thought.
Since 2010 the Bentham Project has also been at the forefront of digital humanities research. In September 2010 it launched the pioneering and award-winning crowdsourced transcription initiative Transcribe Bentham, which has recruited remote volunteers from around the world to transcribe and explore Bentham’s manuscripts, and to indicate structural and other features of the manuscripts by adding Text-Encoding Initiative-compliant XML; to date, volunteers have transcribed around 25,000 pages, or an estimated 10 million words. Transcribe Bentham’s success subsequently led to the Bentham Project’s involvement, from 2013–19, in two major international projects, in which computer scientists, computational linguists, archives and information services professionals, and humanities scholars developed and made freely available the Transkribus platform, which incorporates Handwritten Text Recognition, Document Image Analysis, and Keyword Spotting technologies to allow for the indexing, searching, and full automated transcription of historic manuscripts. This potential impact of this transformative technology was recently recognised by Transkribus receiving the European Commission’s Horizon Impact Award for 2020.