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The Dictionary of National Biography
(DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published from 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.


1 First series 2 Supplements and revisions 3 Concise dictionary 4 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 5 First series contents 6 See also 7 Notes 8 External links

First series[edit] Hoping to emulate national biographical collections published elsewhere in Europe, such as the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (1875), in 1882 the publisher George Smith (1824–1901), of Smith, Elder & Co., planned a universal dictionary that would include biographical entries on individuals from world history. He approached Leslie Stephen, then editor of the Cornhill Magazine, owned by Smith, to become the editor. Stephen persuaded Smith that the work should focus only on subjects from the United Kingdom and its present and former colonies. An early working title was the Biographia Britannica, the name of an earlier eighteenth-century reference work. The first volume of the Dictionary of National Biography
appeared on 1 January 1885. In May 1891 Leslie Stephen
Leslie Stephen
resigned and Sidney Lee, Stephen's assistant editor from the beginning of the project, succeeded him as editor.[1] A dedicated team of sub-editors and researchers worked under Stephen and Lee, combining a variety of talents from veteran journalists to young scholars who cut their academic teeth on dictionary articles at a time when postgraduate historical research in British universities was still in its infancy. While much of the dictionary was written in-house, the DNB also relied on external contributors, who included several respected writers and scholars of the late nineteenth century. By 1900, more than 700 individuals had contributed to the work. Successive volumes appeared quarterly with complete punctuality until midsummer 1900, when the series closed with volume 63.[1] The year of publication, the editor and the range of names in each volume is given below. Supplements and revisions[edit]

George Murray Smith conceived of the DNB, subsidised it, and saw it finally into print before he died in 1901.

Since the scope included only deceased figures, the DNB was soon extended by the issue of three supplementary volumes, covering subjects who had died between 1885 and 1900 or who had been overlooked in the original alphabetical sequence. The supplements brought the whole work up to the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901. Corrections were added. After issuing a volume of errata in 1904, the dictionary was reissued with minor revisions in 22 volumes in 1908 and 1909; a subtitle said that it covered British history "from the earliest times to the year 1900". In the words of the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, the dictionary had "proved of inestimable service in elucidating the private annals of the British",[1] providing not only concise lives of the notable deceased, but additionally lists of sources which were invaluable to researchers in a period when few libraries or collections of manuscripts had published catalogues or indices, and the production of indices to periodical literatures was just beginning. Throughout the twentieth century, further volumes were published for those who had died, generally on a decade-by-decade basis, beginning in 1912 with a supplement edited by Lee covering those who died between 1901 and 1911. The dictionary was transferred from its original publishers, Smith, Elder & Co., to Oxford University Press in 1917. Until 1996, Oxford University Press continued to add further supplements featuring articles on subjects who had died during the twentieth century. The supplements published between 1912 and 1996 added about 6,000 lives of people who died in the twentieth century to the 29,120 in the 63 volumes of the original DNB. In 1993 a volume containing missing biographies was published. This had an additional 1,000 lives, selected from over 100,000 suggestions. This did not seek to replace any articles on existing DNB subjects, even though the original work had been written from a Victorian perspective and had become out of date due to changes in historical assessments and discoveries of new information during the twentieth century. Consequently, the dictionary was becoming less and less useful as a reference work. In 1966, the University of London
University of London
published a volume of corrections, cumulated from the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research.[2] Concise dictionary[edit] There were various versions of the Concise Dictionary of National Biography, which covered everyone in the main work but with much shorter articles; some were only two lines. The last edition, in three volumes, covered everyone who died before 1986. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography[edit]

The volumes of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

In the early 1990s Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
committed itself to overhauling the DNB. Work on what was known until 2001 as the New Dictionary of National Biography, or New DNB, began in 1992 under the editorship of Colin Matthew, professor of modern history at the University of Oxford. Matthew decided that no subjects from the old dictionary would be excluded, however insignificant the subjects appeared to a late twentieth-century eye; that a minority of shorter articles from the original dictionary would remain in the new version in revised form, but most would be rewritten; and that room would be made for about 14,000 new subjects. Suggestions for new subjects were solicited through questionnaires placed in libraries and universities and, as the 1990s advanced, online, and assessed by the editor, the 12 external consultant editors and several hundred associate editors and in-house staff. The new dictionary would cover British history, "broadly defined" (including, for example, subjects from Roman Britain, the United States of America before its independence, and from Britain's former colonies, provided they were functionally part of the Empire and not of "the indigenous culture", as stated in the Introduction), up to 31 December 2000. The research project was conceived as a collaborative one, with in-house staff co-ordinating the work of nearly 10,000 contributors internationally. It would remain selective – there would be no attempt to include all members of parliament, for example – but would seek to include significant, influential or notorious figures from the whole canvas of the life of Britain and its former colonies, overlaying the decisions of the late-nineteenth-century editors with the interests of late-twentieth-century scholarship in the hope that "the two epochs in collaboration might produce something more useful for the future than either epoch on its own", but acknowledging also that a final definitive selection is impossible to achieve. Following Matthew's death in October 1999, he was succeeded as editor by another Oxford historian, Professor Brian Harrison, in January 2000. The new dictionary, now known as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(or ODNB), was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes in print at a price of £7500, and in an online edition for subscribers. Most UK holders of a current library card can access it online free of charge. In subsequent years, the print edition has been able to be obtained new for a much lower price.[3] At publication, the 2004 edition had 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives, including entries on all subjects included in the old DNB. (The old DNB entries on these subjects may be accessed separately through a link to the "DNB Archive" – many of the longer entries are still highly regarded.) A small permanent staff remain in Oxford to update and extend the coverage of the online edition. Brian Harrison was succeeded as editor by another Oxford historian, Dr Lawrence Goldman, in October 2004. The first online update was published on 4 January 2005, including subjects who had died in 2001. A further update, including subjects from all periods, followed on 23 May 2005, and another on 6 October 2005. New subjects who died in 2002 were added to the online dictionary on 5 January 2006, with continuing releases in May and October in subsequent years following the precedent of 2005. The ODNB also includes some new biographies on people who died before the DNB was published and are not included in the original DNB, because they have become notable since the DNB was published through the work of more recent historians, for example William Eyre (fl. 1634–1675). The online version has an advanced search facility, allowing a search for people by area of interest, religion and "Places, Dates, Life Events". This accesses an electronic index that cannot be directly viewed. Response to the new dictionary has been for the most part positive, but in the months following publication there was occasional criticism of the dictionary in some British newspapers and periodicals for reported factual inaccuracies.[4][5] However, the number of articles publicly queried in this way was small – only 23 of the 50,113 articles published in September 2004, leading to fewer than 100 substantiated factual amendments. These and other queries received since publication are being considered as part of an ongoing programme of assessing proposed corrections or additions to existing subject articles, which can, when approved, be incorporated into the online edition of the dictionary. In 2005, The American Library Association awarded the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
its prestigious Dartmouth Medal. A general review of the Dictionary was published in 2007.[6] Sir David Cannadine
David Cannadine
took over the editorship from October 2014.[7] First series contents[edit]

Contents of each volume of the first series with year of publication and editor.

Volume Names Year published Editor

1 Abbadie – Anne 1885 Stephen

2 Annesley – Baird

3 Baker – Beadon

4 Beal – Biber

5 Bicheno – Bottisham 1886

6 Bottomley – Browell

7 Brown – Burthogge

8 Burton – Cantwell

9 Canute – Chaloner 1887

10 Chamber – Clarkson

11 Clater – Condell

12 Conder – Craigie

13 Craik – Damer 1888

14 Damon – D'Eyncourt

15 Diamond – Drake

16 Drant – Edridge

17 Edward – Erskine 1889

18 Esdale – Finan

19 Finch – Forman

20 Forrest – Garner

21 Garnett – Gloucester 1890

22 Glover – Gravet Stephen & Lee

23 Gray – Haighton

24 Hailes – Harriott

25 Harris – Henry I 1891

26 Henry II – Hindley

27 Hindmarsh – Hovenden Lee

28 Howard – Inglethorpe

29 Inglish – John 1892

30 Johnes – Kenneth

31 Kennett – Lambart

32 Lambe – Leigh

33 Leighton – Lluelyn 1893

34 Llywd – MacCartney

35 MacCarwell – Maltby

36 Malthus – Mason

37 Masquerier – Millyng 1894

38 Milman – More

39 Morehead – Myles

40 Myllar – Nicholls

41 Nichols – O'Dugan 1895

42 O'Duinn – Owen

43 Owens – Passelewe

44 Paston – Percy

45 Pereira – Pockrich 1896

46 Pocock – Puckering

47 Puckle – Reidfurd

48 Reilly – Robins

49 Robinson – Russell 1897

50 Russen – Scobell

51 Scoffin – Sheares

52 Shearman – Smirke

53 Smith – Stanger 1898

54 Stanhope – Stovin

55 Stow – Taylor

56 Teach – Tollet

57 Tom – Tytler 1899

58 Ubaldini – Wakefield

59 Wakeman – Watkins

60 Watson – Whewell

61 Whichcord – Williams 1900

62 Williamson – Worden

63 Wordsworth – Zuylestein

See also[edit]

List of contributors to the Dictionary of National Biography Biographical dictionary Oxford Biography
Index Historiography of the United Kingdom


^ a b c  Gosse, Edmund William (1911). "Biography". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 954.  The DNB is described in the last paragraph of this article. ^ University of London. Corrections and Additions to the Dictionary of National Biography, Cumulated from the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research Covering the Years 1923–1963. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1966. ^ E.g., at least one U.K. bookseller in 2012 was asking £1738.44 (US$2842.42) including free worldwide delivery. ^ Stefan Collini (20 January 2005). "Our Island Story". London Review of Books.  ^ Vanessa Thorpe (6 March 2005). "At £7,500 for the set, you'd think they'd get their facts right". The Observer.  ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Dictionary or Encyclopaedia?". The Historical Journal. 50, no. 4: 991–1006.  ^ " David Cannadine
David Cannadine
is the new Editor of the Oxford DNB". OUP. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

has original text related to this article: Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
website Free index to the ODNB About the Oxford DNB, Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
site Corrections to the ODNB submitted and peer-reviewed by members of soc.medieval/Gen-Med


Index and Epitome to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1903, Perseus Digital Library "National Biography" in Leslie Stephen's Studies of a Biographer, vol. 1 Online volumes of the first and second series, selected from Internet Archive and Google Books
Google Books
at The Online Books Page.

The volumes of the first edition of the Dictionary of National Biography
in various file formats in the Internet Archive

Volume Date From To Notes

Index and Epitome 1903

The Index, with a summary for each entry.

Volume 1 1885 Abbadie Anne

Volume 2 1885 Anneslya Baird

Volume 3 1885 Baker Beadon

Volume 4 1885 Beal Biber

Volume 5 1886 Bicheno Bottisham

Volume 6 1886 Bottomley Browell

Volume 7 1886 Brown Burthogge

Volume 8 1886 Burton Cantwell

Volume 9 1887 Canute Chaloner

Volume 10 1887 Chamber Clarkson

Volume 11 1887 Clater Condell

Volume 12 1887 Conder Craigie

Volume 13 1888 Craik Damer

Volume 14 1888 Damon D'Eyncourt

Volume 15 1888 Diamond Drake

Volume 16 1888 Drant Edridge

Volume 17 1889 Edward Erskine

Volume 18 1889 Esdaile Finan

Volume 19 1889 Finch Forman

Volume 20 1889 Forest Garner

Volume 21 1890 Garnett Gloucester

Volume 22 1890 Glover Gravet

Volume 23 1890 Gray Haighton

Volume 24 1890 Hailes Harriott Incorrectly labeled as Volume 25

Volume 25 1891 Harris Henry I

Volume 26 1891 Henry II Hindley

Volume 27 1891 Hindmarsh Hovenden

Volume 28 1891 Howard Inglethorp

Volume 29 1892 Inglis John Truncated at p. 279, at Jeffreys G.

Volume 30 1892 Johnes Kenneth

Volume 31 1892 Kennett Lambart

Volume 32 1892 Lambre Leigh

Volume 33 1893 Leighton Lluelyn

Volume 34 1893 Llwyd MacCartney

Volume 35 1893 MacCarwell Maltby

Volume 36 1893 Malthus Mason

Volume 37 1894 Masquerier Millyng

Volume 38 1894 Milman More

Volume 39 1894 Morehead Myles

Volume 40 1894 Myllar Nichols

Volume 41 1895 Nichols O'Dugan

Volume 42 1895 O'Duinn Owen

Volume 43 1895 Owens Passelewe

Volume 44 1895 Paston Percy

Volume 45 1896 Pereira Pochrich

Volume 46 1896 Pockock Puckering

Volume 47 1896 Puckle Reidfurd

Volume 48 1896 Reily Robins

Volume 49 1897 Robinson Russell

Volume 50 1897 Russen Scobell

Volume 51 1897 Scoffin Sheares

Volume 52 1897 Shearman Smirke

Volume 53 1898 Smith Stanger

Volume 54 1898 Stanhope Stovin

Volume 55 1898 Stow Taylor

Volume 56 1898 Teach Tollet

Volume 57 1899 Tom Tytler

Volume 58 1899 Ubaldini Wakefield

Volume 59 1899 Wakeman Watkins

Volume 60 1899 Watson Whewell

Volume 61 1900 Whichcord Williams

Volume 62 1900 Williamson Worden

Volume 63 1900 Wordsworth Zuylestein

Supplementary volumes for the first edition

Supplement Volume 1 1901 Abbott Childers

Supplement Volume 2 1901 Chippendale Hoste

Supplement Volume 3 1901 How Woodward

Errata 1904

Second series of supplementary volumes for the first edition

Second supplement Volume 1 1912 Abbey Eyre

Second supplement Volume 2 1912 Faed Muybridge

Second supplement Volume 3 1912

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 179269842 LCCN: no2003030610 GND: 4240970-6 SUDOC: 086267485 BNF: