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. 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.
References and sources
- "Biographical dictionaries" University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.