Transcribing Bentham, or: Jeremy, Why Couldn’t You Have Better Handwriting?

My transcription and encoding experience was largely positive, but I must admit up front that I opted to take the “cheating” route and select a manuscript not handwritten directly by Bentham, but by one of his more legible copyists. I came to this decision after perusing through manuscript after manuscript and struggling even just to get through the first line. Deciphering handwriting can be a useful skill, but it is one I do not have, apparently. Ironic, considering my own awful handwriting.

I ended up working with JB/116/292/002, although I am not sure how I reached this point. The tool bar and encoding process itself is quite accessible and easy to use, but the interface for finding a manuscript could use some more features (although the pick a random manuscript button is pretty neat).

Since I “cheated” on this assignment, I did not run into too much trouble while transcribing and encoding this particular copyist’s beautiful handwriting. Perhaps the only word that gave me any trouble now seems obvious, but it did take some help from my roommate before I saw it for myself:


Spoiler alert: the answer is “interwoven.” Yes, yes, I know it’s obvious, but apparently I have a lot to work on when it comes to deciphering handwriting. I am a big fan of this project as a collaborative endeavor, though, and it was a small thrill to get an email from the editors saying my transcript has been accepted. I have now made my small but noticeable contribution to such a huge project, and this acknowledgment does make me feel pretty important. If I can somehow improve my skills in this area, perhaps I can contribute more!

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