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The Fastest Transcribing by the Greatest Number
December 27, 2010 11:11 AM   Subscribe

“Box 73 and Box 96 contain interesting manuscripts on drunkenness, swearing, adultery and much more...”. The Bentham Transcription Project is using crowdsourcing to transcribe 40,000 unpublished manuscripts of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who died in 1832 but still sits and watches. (prev) In four months, they've knocked off 435 already.

Next up: 55,000 unpublished manuscripts from the United States War Department, 1784-1800, starting in January. Possible future projects include the untranscribed papers of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, both many decades into deciphering.
posted by msalt (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why don't they use reCAPTCHA?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:26 AM on December 27, 2010


You mean he died in 2007.
posted by empath at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2010


Why don't they use reCAPTCHA?

My understanding is that reCAPTCHA works with sources printed in type; the bulk of Bentham's writings still awaiting transcription appear to be in cursive longhand.
posted by $0up at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2010


It seems crazy to me that there is so much unpublished work by these people. Was no one interested before now? You'd think some college kid would have done it.
posted by empath at 11:44 AM on December 27, 2010


Well, empath – we could go to the trouble of publishing it... but what's the use?
posted by koeselitz at 12:42 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had to reread the word "Bentham" because my mind automatically replaced it with "prison." Maybe that could be prison work, transcribing philosophical transcripts. Prisons could be our new monastaries.
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:57 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The lengths people go to have the best seat in the room.
posted by clavdivs at 1:10 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I chose a page at random and could only make out a few words on it.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:28 PM on December 27, 2010


His handwriting is horrible. This looks more like torture than something people would actually volunteer to do. "But in embuf these two years in withstand demand for additional government annuities has second sing from the abomination cumluthon amvitel o ℵ ul burst & 17,000,000 amount in her two years 36,000,000."
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:39 PM on December 27, 2010


"Was no one interested before now?"

A lecture on Bentham was the only lecture in college I ever actually walked out of because I was SO BORED I was afraid I might STAB MY OWN EYES OUT or, at the very least, start acting out in inappropriate ways like bursting into song in the middle of class just to entertain myself before my brain crawled out my ear and leapt from the third-story window in a desperate attempt to escape.

I have more love for him now that I teach philosophy, but in large quantities he can be, um, painfully boring.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:42 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The US War Department stuff should be a bit more interesting. According to the first link, that department
also handled diplomacy, internal security, Indian affairs, the country’s only social welfare program — for veterans — and accounted for 7 of every 10 dollars spent by the federal government.
And 1784-1800 were pretty interesting years.
posted by msalt at 11:07 PM on December 27, 2010


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