University Libraries have purchased the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), a 60-volume encyclopedia that includes biographies for 50,000 men and women who have been connected with the British Isles. Only people who died before January 1, 2001 are eligible for inclusion in this reference work. The ODNB is an update to the venerable Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), which was completed in 1900, with supplements over the next 90 years. Biographies for the 39,000 people from the DNB are included in this new reference work, but all articles from the DNB have been revised.
With this purchase, University Libraries also provide access to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online for two years. The database includes the text of both the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the Dictionary of National Biography. A wide variety of searches are available, including personal names, field of interest, religious affiliation, and keywords.
The original Dictionary of National Biography was a product of the Victorian Era. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is, to use the words of Tim Rosenthal in the Sunday Times, “Dead juicy: a history of great Britons with all the dirty bits.” In addition to a more open attitude about sex, the editors have included biographies for the infamous and the bizarre, creating a certain amount of controversy. Some families of murder victims have protested the inclusion of well-known murderers. An example of individuals included under this new editorial policy is Mary Toft, who gave birth to 17 rabbits. A review in the London Independent said, “It is for its endless capacity for capturing the eccentric and unusual that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography will ultimately win its place in the affections of readers.”
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online research database is available at the University Libraries Main Research Databases page: http://maurice.bgsu.edu/search/y.
Carol Singer, Reference and Instruction Librarian and Interim Co-Coordinator of Reference Services