The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library collect extensively in the field of biography and autobiography; the collections in this area represent nearly every historical period, geographical area, and occupation and vocation.
Introduction to the Collections
The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library collect extensively in the field of biography and autobiography; the collections in this area represent nearly every historical period, geographical area, and occupational affiliation.
The Reading Rooms of the General Research Division house most of the major biographical reference sources, many of which are found on the open shelves. These include indexes and guides to biographical material as well as biographical dictionaries, works of collective biography (concerned with groups of individuals, often arranged by nationality or vocation), and a selection of biographies of notable individuals.
Users are welcome to browse this collection of reference materials, located in the Rose Main Reading Room.
The vast majority of the Library's collective and individual biographies are shelved in the stacks. These items can be identified by using CATNYP, the online catalog of The New York Public Library’s Research Libraries. Users will need to request these materials to be brought up to them for use in the Reading Rooms.
Depending on the subject of one’s research, individual and collective biographies may be located in another division of the Library. For instance, individuals researching an artist will likely find many artist biographies located in the Art & Architecture Collection. Refer to the location field in CATNYP to determine the division holding the desired material.
The Library also subscribes to many electronic resources that will be helpful to the researcher. These resources can be used from the public computers in any of our reading rooms, including those located in the South Hall of the Rose Main Reading Room.
Using the Library’s Catalogs
CATNYP is the online catalog of The New York Public Library's four Research Libraries. It is easily accessible via the World Wide Web at http://catnyp.nypl.org. For general instructions on using CATNYP, please consult Using the Library's Online Catalog. The following information is specific to the subject of Biography.
Biographies of individuals can be found by performing a subject search on the individual's name. When doing a subject search on a person, remember to enter the last name first:
To search for biographical material about groups of people, there are two approaches. A subject search will yield more precise results, but only if the researcher knows the appropriate Library of Congress subject headings for his or her topic; a list of these subject headings is available at www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcco. Upon determining the appropriate subject heading, the researcher then adds the word biography:
- Women authors biography
- African Americans biography
- Indians of North America biography
- Women biography
- Authors, English biography
- African American women biography
- Boston (Mass.) biography
- Legislators United States biography
- Shakers biography
If the appropriate Library of Congress subject heading is not known, it will be easier to perform a word search. A word search will generally retrieve more items, though many of them may not be relevant. When performing a word search, be sure to use the word "and" between each term:
- Florence and biography
- clergy and biography
- If too many titles emerge, it is recommended that the word dictionaries be added: Spain and biography and dictionaries
After retrieving the results in a word search, scan the record of one of the items. The subject headings for that item will be listed, and a subject search can then be performed, if desired. For example, the search above for "clergy and biography" retrieves 2107 items. Scanning the item records reveals such helpful subject headings as "women clergy – biography" and "clergy – Ireland – biography." The researcher can then click any of these hypertext links to perform a quick subject search, and locate similar items.
Some additional useful subject headings for biographical research include:
- biography 20th century
- biography dictionaries
- biography indexes
- biography periodicals
- biography as a literary form
When visiting the Library, the researcher may wish to search the Dictionary Catalog, most of whose entries now appear in CATNYP. In this catalog, books about a person normally follow the listing of books written by that individual. In order to locate an individual biography in the Dictionary Catalog, search under the individual's surname:
- Pascal, Blaise
Other biographical sources are listed in the Dictionary Catalog; for these, check the subject entry for the appropriate geographical location, vocation, or institution followed by the term biography:
Boston, Mass. - Biography
If a search in the catalogs does not locate a biographical entry for a given individual, a librarian in Room 315 may be able to recommend other appropriate tools for biographical research. Those outside the Library may also e-mail for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indexes and Guides to Biographical Sources
The following is a selective list of biographical sources at the Research Libraries; the emphasis is on those basic and important tools which will satisfy a specific informational need, or lead the researcher to more specialized resources in the field.
These sources are complemented by the Library's collection of encyclopedias, both general and specialized, which provide succinct biographical data on many individuals.
Many electronic indexes are available, and are discussed in the "Electronic Resources" section of this research guide.
Almanac of Famous People (Detroit: Gale Research Co., irregular; latest edition is available under *R-RMRR CT104 .B56). This reference work includes both historical and contemporary figures. For each person, it gives one or more sources for further information, taken from a list of approximately 360 biographical dictionaries and related works. Particularly useful for its chronological index (enumerating those who were born or died on a particular date), geographic index (wherein individuals are arranged under place of birth or death), and occupational index.
.Biography Index (New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1946-). *R-RMRR CT104 .B5 An index to biographical material about people from all countries, periods, and occupations. The material indexed is limited to English language books and periodicals. This is a particularly valuable source as it analyzes all types of biographical material, including diaries, essays, memoirs, autobiographies, and genealogies. In addition to the principal index, which is arranged by name, there is an index by profession and occupation. This index is available online from 1984-present; the print index covers 1946 through 1984.
Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, edited by David Crystal, 2nd ed. (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998) *R-RMRR CT103 .C26
Falk, Byron. Personal Name Index to "The New York Times Index" (Succasunna, N. J.: Roxbury Data Interface, 1976- ) Available in the Microforms Section, Room 119, and in the U.S. History, Local History, and Genealogy Division, Room 121. Especially useful for names which are somewhat unusual, this set's value is diminished for common names, since it does not differentiate among individuals who share the same name. The 22-volume set covers 1851 through 1974, and the supplements bring the coverage forward to 2001.
Hyamson, Albert M. A Dictionary of Universal Biography of All Ages and All Peoples, 2nd edition (New York: Dutton, 1966) *R-RMRR CT103 .H99. An index to people appearing in biographical dictionaries, national biographies, and encyclopedias (including such works as the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica and The Annual Register). While this dictionary attempts to cover people of all countries and times, its usefulness extends only to the middle of the twentieth century. The most recent biographical source cited was published in 1949.
Ireland, Norma. Index to Women of the World from Ancient to Modern Times:Biographies and Portraits (Westwood, Mass.: Faxon, 1970) *R-RMRR CT3202 .I7. This work provides references to biographical sketches of women which appear in biographical dictionaries, collective biographies, and individual biographies.
It is supplemented by the same author’s Index to Women of the World from Ancient to Modern Times: A Supplement (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1988) *R-RMRR HQ1123 .I73.
Phillips, Lawrence B. The Dictionary of Biographical Reference (Graz: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 1966, reprint of 1889 edition) JFE 99-4925. This work covers more than 100,000 people and represents all countries and times until the last decade of the nineteenth century. It indexes approximately forty reference tools including encyclopedias, collective biographies, biographical dictionaries, and histories.
Riches, Phyllis M. An Analytical Bibliography of Universal Collected Biography:Comprising Books Published in the English Tongue in Great Britain and Ireland, America, and the British Dominions (London: The Library Association, 1934) JFF 82-247. This is an index to biographies of persons (from all countries and periods through the early twentieth century) found in collective biographies and histories published in the English language. In addition to the index arranged by name of biographee, there is also a list arranged by profession or trade.
Slocum, Robert B. Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works; An International Bibliography of More than 16,000 Collected Biographies, 2nd edition (Detroit: Gale, 1986), 2 vols. *R-RMRR CT104 .S55. This listing of biographical dictionaries (and some related items) is arranged internationally and nationally as well as by vocational interest, with author, title, and subject indexes. This work is especially useful for determining whether a biographical dictionary exists for specific geographical locales or specialized groups.
Geographic Biographical Sources
Many of the resources available for biographers are arranged by geographical location. These resources can help the researcher find more specific information on individuals not included in the general indexes.
Current Biography Yearbook (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1940- ) *R-RMRR CT100 .C8. This annual is a valuable source for biographical data on contemporary people from all professions (including literary, sports, and political figures). The essay-length entries (which include brief bibliographies) provide not only data about a person's life and career but also his or her physical characteristics (such as height, color of eyes, etc.) and a photograph. A cumulated index exists for the years 1940 through 1995; the 2000 edition indexes the years 1991 through 2000.
International Who's Who (London: Europa, 1935- ) Current issue is available under Pub. Cat. CT120 .I5; older volumes are cataloged under AA. This annual provides succinct biographical data for notables from around the world and is prefaced by an enumeration of reigning royal houses.
International Who's Who of Women (London: Europa Publications Limited, 1992- )*R-RMRR CT3235 .I58, for latest edition. For earlier editions, check CATNYP. Brief entries on notable women.
Who's Who in the World (Chicago: Marquis, 1971- ) Current issue available under *R-RMRR CT120 .W5; older issues available under N-10 2865. Like International Who's Who, this biennial provides brief biographical data for the world's notables; while there is some duplication, each work contains names unique to itself.
Biographie Universelle Ancienne et Moderne, edited by J. Fr. Michaud (Graz: Akademische Druck, 1966-1970, reprint of 1843-1865 edition), 45 vols. *R-RMRR CT143 .M52. Commonly known by the author's last name, this dictionary of universal biography is noted for its scholarly articles and lengthy bibliographies, whose titles are supplied in French even when the materials were originally published in another language. Individuals covered represent all times and places, but there is a distinct emphasis on French notables.
Chalmers, Alexander. The General Biographical Dictionary (London: Printed for J. Nichols, 1812-1817), 32 vols. JFD 98-8590.. This biographical dictionary, characterized by long, discursive entries, covers people from all places and times with a particular focus on the British Isles.
Hoefer, Jean C. E. Nouvelle Biographie Generale (Paris: Didot 1852-1868), 46 vols., *R-RMRR CT143 .N934. While this work is similar in many respects to Michaud's Biographie Universelle, its entries tend to be shorter and less scholarly. In addition, the bibliographies supplied by Hoefer provide titles in the original tongue.
The Continuum Dictionary of Women's Biography (New York: Continuum, 1989) *R-RMRR CT3202 .C66. This work provides brief biographical entries for prominent women.
The New Century Cyclopedia of Names (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1954), 3 vols.; available under Pub. Cat. PE1625 .C43. (For other editions, check CATNYP.) This compilation of proper names (including persons, places, historical events, etc.) is valuable for its concise biographical information on world notables.
Thomas, Joseph. Universal Pronouncing Dictionary of Biography and Mythology, 5th edition (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1930) *R-RMRR CT103 .L7. (For other editions, check CATNYP.) This biographical dictionary, noted for its emphasis on pronunciation, provides brief biographical data on historical and mythological figures.
Merriam-Webster’s Biographical Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1995); available under Pub. Cat. CT103 .M47. (For other editions, check CATNYP.) This dictionary provides condensed biographical sketches of notable men and women. Like the previous item, it is an excellent source for the pronunciation of names.
Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 1999- ), 16 vols. *R-RMRR HQ1115 .W6. Biographical essays on women of achievement representing all times and places.
Who's Who in America (Chicago: Marquis, 1899/1900- ) *R-RMRR CT213 .W56; for other copies check CATNYP. This and related Marquis titles are also available electronically as Marquis Who’s Who on the Web. This biennial is the leading source for information on contemporary Americans. Biographical data is supplied by the biographees themselves, and individuals may be dropped when they are no longer considered prominent.
Who's Who in America is supplemented by regional editions which supply biographical data on persons not listed in the main work. These regional editions are issued biennially by Marquis:
- Who's Who in the East (1942/43- )
- Who's Who in the Midwest (1949- )
- Who's Who in the South and Southwest (1950- )
- Who's Who in the West (1949- ).
Consult CATNYP for the locations of the most recent editions of these titles as well as for the older editions.
Who's Who among Black Americans (Northbrook, Illinois: Who's Who among Black Americans, 1975/ 76- ). Current edition available under *R-RMRR E185.96 .W52 For older editions, please check CATNYP. This publication is issued at irregular intervals; the biographees themselves supplied the information.
Who's Who of American Women (Chicago: Marquis: 1958/59- ); current edition available under *R-RMRR E176 .W647. For older editions, consult CATNYP for call number. This biennial conforms to other Marquis biographical dictionaries in that the information is supplied by the biographees themselves.
American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 24 vols. *R- RMRR CT213 .A68 and *R-USLHG IAD 99-2024; also available electronically. Considered to be the successor to Dictionary of American Biography, this, too, contains scholarly articles on noted Americans with bibliographies. Indexes by subject, contributor, place of birth, and occupation and realm of renown.
Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (Detroit: Gale, 1968 reprint of 1888 edition and its 1901 supplement), 7 vols.; *R-RMRR CT101 .A652C. This biographical dictionary contains not only long articles about its subjects but also a significant number of portraits and facsimiles of autographs. Its analytical index (in vol. 6) is useful for subjects and names not treated separately.
Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Scribner, 1944-64), 11 vols. with 8 supplements covering those who died through 1970. *R-RMRR CT213 .D53. This is the leading biographical dictionary for Americans and is noted for its scholarly articles and bibliographies. Indexes include arrangement by subject, contributor, birthplace, and occupation.
Logan, Rayford W. Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982). *R-RMRR E185.96 .L6. This biographical dictionary on American blacks includes black men and women who achieved prominence in the history of the United States. Articles generally are scholarly, and brief bibliographies are included.
National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: J. T. White: 1892- ), 63 vols. *R-RMRR CT213 .N38. (For other copies, check CATNYP.) This biographical dictionary of Americans is more comprehensive than the Dictionary of American Biography but lacks the scholarly approach and the bibliographies characteristic of the latter work. The entries in the National Cyclopaedia are unsigned and are largely based upon questionnaires and other information supplied by families of the biographees. Since this dictionary is not alphabetically arranged, access to the entries is through the general index. While the focus of this work is on the deceased, volumes entitled "current" or "lettered" include those living at the time of compilation. Portraits are supplied throughout the set.
Notable American Women, 1607-1950; A Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge: Belknap, 1971), 3 vols. *R-RMRR CT3260 .N57. This scholarly work (with bibliographies) provides biographical sketches of approximately 1,400 women who achieved prominence or recognition in American life. b1836827 Supplemented by Notable American Women: The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge: Belknap, 1980) also in *R-RMRR CT3260 .N573.
Notable Americans: What They Did, from 1620 to the Present (Detroit: Gale, 1988); available under Pub. Cat. E176 .N89. This work provides chronological enumerations of American officeholders of various kinds (e.g. congressmen, cabinet members, governors, mayors, college presidents, and leaders of the Confederacy). Indexes are arranged by personal name and organization. This reference book supersedes White's Conspectus of American Biography.
The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998- ), 7 vols., in progress *R-RMRR CT213 .S37. . Biographical essays on notables who have died since 1981. Bibliographies included. Indexes by occupation and contributor.
Who Was Who in America (Chicago: Marquis, 1942- ) *R-RMRR CT210 .W62. Historical volume with 14 supplements (in progress). The principal volume of this work, entitled Historical Volume, 1607-1896, consists of biographical sketches of people prominent in American history; the supplements, covering the period from 1897 through 2002, include sketches of those people removed from Who's Who in America after their death. An index, arranged by name of biographee, covers the Historical Volume as well as the supplements.
Willard, Frances E. American Women (Detroit: Gale, 1973 reprint of 1897 edition), 2 vols. SNE (Willard). This work consists of brief biographical sketches of prominent women in nineteenth-century America. Particularly useful for its portraits of nearly all biographees and a classified index arranged by vocation.
Who's Who in France (Paris: Lafitte, 1953- ) *R-RMRR CT143 .W46; older editions cataloged under JFM 86-475. Despite its English title, the entries in this biennial biographical dictionary appear only in French. Coverage includes not only residents of France but also French nationals living overseas and Francophone persons in former French colonies.
Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise (Paris: Letouzey, 1933- ), 20 vols., in progress.*R-RMRR CT143 .D5. This dictionary of national biography, characterized by scholarly articles and lengthy bibliographies, should be used in conjunction with Michaud's Biographie Universelle and Hoefer's Nouvelle Biographie Generale.
Wer ist wer? (Berlin: Degner, 1905- ) *R-RMRR CT153 .W3; older editions, which appeared at irregular intervals, are cataloged under AGK (Wer ist’s). Entries for biographees are brief, and some portraits are included. Although this work is now published under the title Wer ist Wer?, the Library still catalogs the superseded editions under its original designation.
Who's Who in Germany (Munich: Intercontinental Book and Pub. Co., 1956-) *R-RMRR DD85 .W45; earlier editions in K-10 38. Written in English, this biographical dictionary (issued irregularly) provides sketches of prominent persons in Germany.
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1967-71 reprint of 1875-1912 edition), 56 vols. *R-RMRR CT1053 .A52. This standard German biographical dictionary includes long, scholarly articles with bibliographies and is limited to those who were deceased at time of publication. Because of the supplements found in many volumes, it is necessary to employ the index to obtain the complete record of a biographee.
Neue Deutsche Biographie (Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1953- ), 23 vols, in progress. *R-RMRR CT1053 .N4. Like the above work, this dictionary is limited to deceased persons; it, too, is characterized by authoritative articles and bibliographies. However, Neue Deutsche Biographie is more comprehensive in that it includes notables who have died since Allegemeine Deutsche Biographie was published as well as additional figures from earlier periods. Each volume has its own index, which includes references to all entries in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie.
Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopadie (Munich: K.G. Saur, 1995- ), 12 vols., in progress *R-RMRR CT759 .D48. Brief entries on prominent people in German history. b3510977 It is now being translated into English as Dictionary of German Biography (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2001- ), 10 vols., in progress *R-RMRR CT759 .D4813.
Who's Who in Italy (Milan: 1957- ) *R-RMRR CT163 .W5, latest edition. Earlier editions under K-10 1449. Brief entries in English on contemporary Italians. b2280365
Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Rome: Instituto della Rnciclopedia Italiana, 1960- ), 65 vols., in progress. *R-RMRR CT1123 .D5, with duplicate copy in JFL 80-7. Scholarly essays on major figures in Italy, with extensive bibliographies.
Who's Who, an Annual Biographical Dictionary (London: Black, 1849- ). Latest five years available under *R-RMRR CT773 .W6; older editions cataloged under AA. This annual, the prototype of all Who's Who books, offers brief biographical sketches of prominent people in Britain (some international notables also included).
Dictionary of National Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1967-1968, reprint of 1921-22 edition), 27 vols. including supplements (vols. 22 through 27) covering the years 1901 through 1950. JFE 04-14568. This definitive biographical dictionary includes noteworthy and prominent people of the British Isles, British colonies, and colonial America, and is characterized by its scholarly approach and extensive bibliographies. Scope is limited to those deceased at time of publication; there is an index for the main set and each supplement includes a cumulative index covering all entries from 1901 in one alphabetical sequence. Check CATNYP for other editions, including supplements, the last of which covers the period ending in 1990.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 60 vols. *R-RMRR CT773 .D55; also available electronically. The revised version of the Dictionary of National Biography, this new work contains over 50,000 biographies of notable people from the British past.
Who's Who in British History: Beginnings to 1901 (London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998), 2 vols. *R-RMRR DA28 .W616. Brief entries on notable British figures. Researchers should also consult the Who’s Who in British History Series, a multi-volume set with chronological arrangement. Since each volume of this series has its own unique call number, search CATNYP under the title entry Who’s Who in British History Series to bring up the various volumes.
Who Was Who(London: Black, 1929- ), main volume (1897-1915) with supplements covering the period through 2005. *R-RMRR CT773 .W65. Included here are the original biographical sketches as they appeared in Who's Who with the date of death added.
Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press; London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1966- ), 17 vols., in progress. *R-RMRR CT2802 .A95. A supplement, found under the same call number, covers additions for the period 1580-1980 and also includes a name index through 1980.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966- ), 15 vols., in progress. *R-RMRR CT280 .D53; also available electronically. Arranged chronologically from 1000 to 1930, this is the definitive work on Canadian biography. There is an index for vols. 1 through 4; in addition, each volume has its own indexes arranged by name, geography, and occupation or area of interest.
Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, edited by Joseph C. Tardiff and L. Mpho Mabunda (New York: Gale Research, 1996) *R-RMRR CT1343 .D53.
Mendez Mendez, Serafin. Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003) *R-RMRR CT329 .M46.
Who's Who in Spain (Montreal: Intercontinental Book and Pub. Co., 1963- ) *R-RMRR CT1343 .W46, latest edition. Earlier editions under K-10 5342. Brief entries in English on prominent people in Spain.
Specialized Biographical Sources
The Research Libraries hold an impressive number of specialized biographical sources, though only a few of the most important are given here.
American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to thePresent (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000), 4 vols. *R-RMRR PS147. A42
Cyclopedia of World Authors, edited by Frank N. Magill, 3rd ed. (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1997), 5 vols. *R-RMRR PN451 .M36. International in scope, provides biographical and critical information, with bibliographies. Index by author and geographical locale; time line included.
Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit: Gale, 1978- ), 324 vols., in progress. *R-RMRR PN451 .D53; also available electronically. Each volume of this impressive work is devoted to a different period, style, or dimension of world literature with a particular focus on American or British literary history (e.g., Victorian novelists, American journalists, African American fiction writers). Within each volume are substantive essays discussing the contributions and significance of representative authors; these entries include not only biographical data but also a list of the author's writings, bibliographies on the author, and a selection of biographical and critical works. This work is supplemented by the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook (Detroit: Gale, 1981- ) and the Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series (Detroit: Gale, 1982- ). An index covering all three sets cumulates in the latest volume of the main set. The supplementary sets are shelved with the main series in the Reading Room.
Directory of American Scholars, (Lancaster, PA: Science Press, 1942- ). Latest edition under *R-RMRR LA2311 D598. This resource provides brief biographical data on living American and Canadian scholars (including their publications) within specific academic disciplines. Indexes are arranged by name, academic specialty, and college affiliation. For earlier editions of this work, consult a librarian at the Information Desk in Room 315.
Annotated Index of Medieval Women (New York: M. Wiener Pub., 1992) *R-RMRR CT3220 .A56.
Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1982- ), 63 vols., in progress. *R-RMRR CT215 .C66. Essays on famous black personalities, past and present; although international in scope, most entries deal with Americans. Bibliographies included.
Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A BiographicalDictionary, edited by Carole Levin and others (Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 2000) JFF 00-16731
The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Clayton J. Drees (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001) *R-RMRR CB353 .L38.
Latin American Lives (New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA, 1998) *R-RMRR CT502 .E542.
Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Jo Eldridge Carney (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001) *R-RMRR CT759 .R46.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Who's Who in the Middle Ages (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001) *R-RMRR CT114 .S56.
Truhart, Peter. Regents of Nations: Systematic Chronology of States and their Political Representatives in Past and Present: A Biographical Reference Book, 2nd ed. (Munich: Sauer, 2000- ), 4 vols. *R-RMRR D107 .T78. A list of the rulers and heads of state of the world from ancient times to present, arranged geographically. Valuable for its inclusion of leaders of sub-divisions like provinces. For earlier edition, check CATNYP. b6107771
Tyerman, Christopher. Who's Who in Early Medieval England, 1066-1272 (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1996]) JFD 96-18903.
Bibliotheca Sanctorum (Rome: Instituto Giovanni XXIII, 1961-1969), 12 vols. and separate index volume. JFF 98-1511.
Bowden, Henry W. Dictionary of American Religious Biography, 2nd ed. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1993) *R-RMRR BL72 .B68. Presented here are biographical sketches of major figures in American religious history (all deceased); the bibliographies include works by and about the biographee.
Butler, Alban. Butler's Lives of the Saints (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press; Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1995-2000), 12 vols and suppl. *R-RMRR BX4654 .B8.
The Complete Who's Who in the Bible, edited by Paul Gardner (London: Marshall Pickering, 1995) *R-RMRR BS570 .C645.
Lockyear, Herbert. All the Men of the Bible; All the Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996) *R-RMRR BS571 .L59.
American Men and Women of Science, (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1971- ), latest edition under *R-RMRR Q141 .A512. . This work provides brief personal information on 130,000 living individuals active in the physical and biological sciences. This series is limited to American and Canadian scholars, but does include foreign nationals living in the two countries. Earlier editions (issued at irregular intervals) also listed social and behavioral scientists; for these, check CATNYP. Also check CATNYP for locations of other copies of the latest edition. A cumulative index for first fourteen editions of this work is entitled American Men and Women of Science: Cumulative Index and is available under the same call number.
Chambers Biographical Dictionary of Women, edited by Melanie Parry (Edinburgh: Chambers, 1996) *R-RMRR CT3202 .C48.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Charles C. Gillispie, editor-in-chief. (New York: Scribner, 1970-1980), 18 vols., with vol..15 a supplement and vol. 16 an index and vols. 17 and 18 also supplements.*R-RMRR Q141 .D5. Scholarly biographies of scientists from all periods and places; extensive bibliographies. Another copy is available at the Science, Industry, and Business Library.
International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Amsterdam; New York: Elsevier, 2001), 26 vols. *R-RMRR H41 .I58. The definitive work on the social and behavioral sciences, including approximately 200 biographies of noted social scientists and references to many more in the articles salient to their scholarly interests.
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan; London: Free Press, 1968-1980), 19 vols. JFF 92-1819. This resource contains approximately 400 biographical articles, including bibliographies, on well-known social scientists deceased at time of publication or born before 1891. Coverage is extended with the encyclopedia's biographical supplement (v. 18), published in 1979. This volume contains an additional 215 articles on social scientists deceased since preparation of the original set or born prior to 1909
Notable Black American Women, edited by Jessie Carney Smith (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992) *R-RMRR E185.96 .N68. Essays on famous black women in the United States, both past and present. Supplemented by Notable Black American Women: Book II, edited by Jessie Carney Smith (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996) under same call number. Both volumes have bibliographies. For other locations, check CATNYP.
Notable Native Americans, edited by Sharon Malinowski (New York: Gale Research, 1995) *R-RMRR E89 .N67.
Readers are urged to consult the Library's listing of electronic resources for a current list. To access these databases, it is necessary to use one of the public computers located in the Library. Many of the reading rooms have dedicated computers to electronic resources, with the majority of them located in the South Hall of the Rose Main Reading Room and the Public Catalog Room.
The following databases are particularly useful:
American National Biography offers portraits of more than 17,400 men and women -- from all eras and walks of life -- whose lives have shaped the nation. Conceived as the successor to the Dictionary of American Biography. Includes bibliographical references and is searchable by name, occupation, sex, time period, special collection (e.g., American Indian), etc.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index, an index to biographical listings in English-language biographical dictionaries, subject encyclopedias, and related works for nearly 13 million people. The listings often provide birth and death years, as well as giving the source of the biographical listing, publisher, year of publication, and other pertinent data.
Biography Index, an index to English-language biographical material appearing in books, periodicals, and selected newspapers. It indexes interviews, obituaries, biographical novels, poetry, and juvenile literature, as well as current book-length and collective biographies.
Biography Resource Center, database of biographical information on more than 150,000 individuals from all parts of the world; the information is taken from standard biographical resources, many of which are available also in print, microfilm, or electronic format at the Library.
Contemporary Authors, available as part of the Literature Resource Center. The biographical sketches in this work cover living writers from many countries but with an Anglo-American bias, and provide personal information about the biographee in addition to writings, work in progress, and biographical sources. The writers analyzed represent many fields including humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, a collection of biographies of notable Canadians, representing a wide range of occupations and achievements. The first phase of this work presents persons who died between 1000 and 1920.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, available as part of the Literature Resource Center. This impressive resource covers different periods, styles, and dimensions of world literature with a particular focus on American and British literary history (e.g., Victorian novelists, American journalists, African American fiction writers). It is characterized by substantive essays which discuss the contributions and significance of representative authors; these essays include not only biographical data but also a list of the author’s writings, bibliographies on the author, and a selection of biographical and critical works.
Literature Resource Center, includes biographical and biocritical information on writers from all times and places; it is related to several print resources, including Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, and Contemporary Literary Criticism.
Marquis Who’s Who on the Web, a compilation of the various Who’s Who titles such as Who’s Who in America. Coverage includes standard biographical information, and is searchable by name, gender, occupation, geography, avocational interests, religion, and other categories.
New York Times Online Current and Backfile (Proquest) These two electronic databases provide the full text of The New York Times from its founding in 1851 through the present; since the access is via keyword, the researcher is able to gather information about a person (e.g., news article, obituary, paid death notice, etc.) by simply entering that person’s name. Please check the listing of electronic resources for other newspapers now available electronically.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, contains over 50, 000 biographies of people who have shaped British life from earliest times to the present. Searchable by name, field of interest or occupation, sex, religion, time period, etc.
World Biographical Information System (WBIS), a compiled index to biographical archives containing entries for nearly four million people representing all places and times. The entry for each person includes years of birth and death, occupation, quoted source, and bibliographic information about the sources used. Most of the resources cited are available in print, microfilm, or electronic format in the Library.
Selected Internet Sites
- Biographical Dictionary
Dictionary of notable men and women which can be searched by name, birth years, death years, positions held, professions, literary and artistic works, achievements, and other keywords.
- Lives, the Biography Resource
Links to thousands of biography sites on the web.
- World Biographical Index
Contains approximately 2.4 million biographical entries for individuals who lived in the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.
Features short biographies of about 25,000 people.
- Nobel e-Museum
Provides the names of Nobel Prize winners in each of the five categories of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace . For each Laureate, you may access biographies and, occasionally, view in-depth presentations of his or her work. The Nobel Web site is also an excellent pictorial resource. It contains images of the medals, photographs of all the Laureates, and reproductions of the commemorative Swedish Nobel Stamps.
You may find the following research guides helpful to you in your work:
Where to Go for More Help
This research guide is a small sample of what The New York Public Library can offer you in your research. For further assistance, the librarians of The New York Public Library are here to help you.
General Research Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Located in Room 315, the reference desk is staffed during all hours that the library is open. We can assist you in getting started with your research, or help you with any stumbling blocks you have encountered.
- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - 10am-6pm, Tuesday, Wednesday - 11am-7:30pm
- Telephone Reference Service is available from 10am-3pm, Tuesday-Friday, at (212) 930-0830
- E-mail Reference Service is available at email@example.com
Milstein Division of US History, Local History and Genealogy, Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Located in Room 121, the staff of the Milstein Division are available to assist you with yoru research. Because of the many overlaps between genealogy and biography, you may find many of their resources helpful in your research.
- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - 10 am-6 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday - 11 am-7:30 pm
- Telephone Reference Service is available at (212) 930-0828
- E-mail Reference Service is available at firstname.lastname@example.org
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