Biographical dictionary

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Biographical dictionaries – a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information – have been written in many languages. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country (with limitations, such as living persons only, in Who's Who, or deceased people only, in the Dictionary of National Biography). Others are specialized, in that they cover important names in a subject field, such as architecture or engineering.


The first biographical dictionaries were written in the Muslim world from the 9th century onwards.[citation needed] They contain more social data for a large segment of the population than that found in any other pre-industrial society. The earliest biographical dictionaries initially focused on the lives of the prophets of Islam and the their companions, with one of the earliest examples being The Book of The Major Classes by Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, and then began documenting the lives of many other historical figures (from rulers to scholars) who lived in the medieval Islamic world.[1]

List of biographical dictionaries[edit]




China and Chinese[edit]

Czech Republic[edit]

  • Československý biografický slovník (1 volume, 1992; contains ca 10,000 biographical articles)
  • Biografický slovník českých zemí (BSČZ, 16 fascicles (A–Fe), 2004– ; complete dictionary will have ca 25,000 biographical articles)



German-speaking Europe[edit]

Great Britain[edit]



Islamic world[edit]

  • Beale, Thomas William & Henry George Keene, An Oriental Biographical Dictionary, Manohar Reprints, 1971.
  • Bewley, Aisha, Muslim Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Ta-Ha, 2004. ISBN 1-84200-053-5.
  • Frank, Allen, An Islamic Biographical Dictionary of the Eastern Kazakh Steppe 1770-1912, Brill, 2004. ISBN 90-04-14127-8
  • Leaman, Oliver, Biographical Encyclopedia of Islamic Philosophy.
  • Jenkins, Who's Who in Islam: A Biographical Dictionary of Persons and Groups from the Time of Muhammad to the Present, McFarland, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7864-2376-7.
  • Khan, Mohammed Ishaq, Biographical Dictionary of Sufism, 2009. ISBN 978-81-7304-681-0.



  • Bingenheimer, Marcus, A Biographical Dictionary of the Japanese Student-Monks of the Seventh and Early Eighth Centuries, 2001. ISBN 978-3-89129-693-6.
  • Hisamatsu, Sen'ichi, Biographical Dictionary of Japanese Literature, Kodansha International Ltd. in collaboration with the International Society for Educational Information, 1976. ISBN 0 87011 253 8.
  • Iwao, Seiichi (supervising editor) & Watson, Burton (trans.), Biographical Dictionary of Japanese History, Kodansha International Ltd. in collaboration with the International Society for Educational Information, 1978. ISBN 0 87011 274 0.


  • Biographical Dictionary of Mexican Film Performers

Native North American[edit]

  • Bataille, Gretchen & Laurie Lisa, eds, Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary.
  • Irvine, Biographical Dictionary of Indians of the Americas, 1990.
  • Bruce E. Johansen, Native Americans Today: A Biographical Dictionary, Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood.
  • Waldman, Carl, Biographical Dictionary of American Indian History to 1900, 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4253-5.

New Zealand[edit]





  • Karlsson, Åsa, ed. (2010) Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (Dictionary of Swedish National Biography), Stockholm, Riksarkivet. First published in 1917 (volume 1), today there are 33 volumes containing some 14,000 articles. Free searchable online access is available from Riksarkivet. (Swedish)
  • Vem är det with the subtitle Svensk biografisk handbok (Swedish Biographical Handbook), has been published in 46 editions since 1912. Several of the editions are available in free online access from (Swedish)



  • Khetsun Sangpo, bod du sgrub brgyad shing rta mched brgyad las (Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism), Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 12 volumes, 1973-1990.

United States[edit]

  • African American National Biography Project
  • American National Biography
  • Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Blake's Biographical Dictionary
  • Encyclopedia of American Biography
  • Who's Who in America, published by Marquis Who's Who
  • Who’s Who in Nebraska (1940)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Dictionary of American Biography, New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-80631-2. OCLC 4171403.
  • Biographical Dictionary of American Architects.
  • Biographical Dictionary of American Labor.
  • Dictionary of Cleveland Biography.
  • Hamilton, Neil & Ian Friedman, Presidents: Biographical Dictionary.
  • Homans, James, The Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1918.
  • Hudson, Bergman, Horton, Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, University of Iowa.
  • Kim, Cordova, Fugita, Ng, Singh, eds, Distinguished Asian Americans: A Biographical Dictionary, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1999.
  • Kranz, Rachel, The Biographical Dictionary of Black Americans.
  • Kranz, Rachel & Philip Koslow, The Biographical Dictionary of African Americans.
  • McCartney, Martha, Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary
  • Melton, John Gordon, Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders, New York/London: Garland, 1986.
  • Moses, John, Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of the Representative Men of the United States.
  • New Jersey Biographical Dictionary.
  • Newman, Roger, ed, The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law, Yale University Press.
  • New Perspectives on the West: People,
  • Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Harvard University Press.
  • Ohles, Frederik, Shirley Ohles, and John Ramsay, Biographical Dictionary of Modern American Educators, 1997.
  • Olitzky, Kerry, Lance Sussman, and Malcolm Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook. ISBN 0-313-24628-9. ISBN 978-0-313-24628-9.
  • Porter, David, ed, Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary, Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0-313-30952-3
  • Samuels, Peggy, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Doubleday.
  • The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-made Men, Chicago & New York: American Biographical Publishing Company, 1878.

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Josef W. Meri (2005), Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia 2, Routledge, p. 110, ISBN 0-415-96690-6 
  2. ^ E.g.
    • A Dictionary of Edwardian Biography: Northumberland. Edinburgh. 1985. ISBN 0946687 04 8. Reprint of the biographical part of W T Pike, Northumberland at the Opening of the Twentieth Century, Pike's New Century Series No 14, Brighton, 1905.
    • Bell, Peter (compiler). A Dictionary of Edwardian Biography: Master Index. Edinburgh. 1986. ISBN 0 946687 09 9.