biographical dictionary


A biographical dictionary is a type of
encyclopedic dictionary Title page from the 1894 four volume version of Robert Hunter's ''The Encyclopædic Dictionary''. An encyclopedic dictionary typically includes many short listings, arranged alphabetically, and discussing a wide range of topics. Encyclopedic di ...
limited to
biographical A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Unlike a profile or c ...
information. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country (with limitations, such as living persons only, in ''
Who's Who ''Who's Who'' (or "''Who is Who''") is the title of a number of reference publications, generally containing concise biographical information on the prominent people of a country. The title has been adopted as an expression meaning a group of no ...

Who's Who
'', or deceased people only, in the ''
Dictionary of National Biography The ''Dictionary of National Biography'' (''DNB'') is a standard work of reference on notable figures from History of the British Isles, British history, published since 1885. The updated ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' (''ODNB'') w ...
''). Others are specialized, in that they cover important names in a subject field, such as architecture or engineering.


Tarif Khalidi claimed the genre of biographical dictionaries is a "unique product of Arab Muslim culture". The earliest extant example of the biographical dictionary dates from 9th-century
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country in ...

, and by the 16th-century it was a firmly established and well-respected form of historical writing. 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 Prophets in Islam ( ar, الأنبياء في الإسلام, translit=al-ʾAnbiyāʾ fī al-ʾIslām) are individuals to serve as examples of ideal human behavior and to spread God's message on Earth. Some prophets are categorized as messenger ...
their companions
their companions
, with one of the earliest examples being ''
The Book of The Major Classes Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Sa‘d ibn Manī‘ al-Baṣrī al-Hāshimī or simply Ibn Saʿ'd ( ar, ابن سعد) and nicknamed ''Scribe of Waqidi'' (''Katib al-Waqidi''), was a scholar A scholar is a person who pursues academic and int ...
'' by
Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Sa‘d ibn Manī‘ al-Baṣrī al-Hāshimī or simply Ibn Saʿ'd ( ar, ابن سعد) and nicknamed ''Scribe of Waqidi'' (''Katib al-Waqidi''), was a scholar A scholar is a person who pursues academic and int ...
, and then began documenting the lives of many other historical figures (from rulers to scholars) who lived in the medieval Islamic world. When it comes to the numbers of individuals, American scholar of Islam
Richard Bulliet Richard W. Bulliet (born 1940) is a professor of history at Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a Private university, private Ivy League research ...
argues that "a brief look at
Brockelmann Carl Brockelmann (17 September 1868 – 6 May 1956) German Semitic studies, Semiticist, was the foremost Orientalism, orientalist of his generation. He was a professor at the universities in University of Wrocław, Breslau, Berlin and, from 1903, U ...
's ''
Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (GAL) (History of Arabic literature) is a reference work produced by the German scholar Carl Brockelmann. The work is considered a classic of Oriental studies, Orientalist scholarship and it remains a fundamental ...
'' is sufficient to convince anyone that the number of individual biographies extant must run into the hundreds of thousands and most likely into the millions."Richard W. Bulliet, "A Quantitative Approach to Medieval Muslim Biographical Dictionaries" in ''Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient'', Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1970), p. 195

See also

List of biographical dictionaries This is an incomplete list of Biographical dictionary, biographical dictionaries. International * ''A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers'' * ''Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890'' * Emmanuel K. Akyeampong, Akyeampo ...




"Biographical dictionaries"
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. {{Authority control Encyclopedias Arabic literature