Dictionary of National Biography: May’s online resource of the month

Sandeep Dhaliwal, our Tri-borough Reference Librarian, writes:

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century. It is free for library members and now includes biographies of 59,003 men and women who died in or before the year 2010 — plus 504 ‘Theme’ articles for reference and research.

If you’re into lists, try Chiefs of the Secret Intelligence Service or Captains of the England Cricket Team– how about a list of Musical chart-toppersAngry young men, or Viking and Scandinavian kings and leaders?

Want to know more about the DNB?

  • No living person is included in the DNB; it currently covers those who died in or before the year 2010.
  • To have an entry in the Dictionary is not an ‘honour;’ rather it’s an acknowledgement that an individual has shaped an aspect of national life (for good or ill), and is duly recorded for today’s, and future readers and researchers with an interest in the British past.
  • Includes over 11,500 portraits covering 2000 years of British history, the portraits include a wide range of forms—busts, medals, statues, effigies, death masks, and silhouettes, as well as more ‘conventional’ paintings and photographs.
  • Accessibility: Free to use and available 24/7!

Below is an example of a typical entry which includes wealth at death, sources and referencing at the very bottom;

Sir Robert William Robson
Sir Robert William Robson

In case you’re interested, Sir Bobby Robson’s wealth at death was £3,552,430!

A full list of online resources which the library service currently offers is available here: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisureandlibraries/libraries/onlinedatabases.aspx
For a demonstration of a particular resource at Kensington Reference Library please e-mail information@rbkc.gov.uk. A member of staff will be delighted to help and set you off on your own journey of discovery.

June’s blog entry will feature Learning Nexus.




Words in the Reference Store

The Reference Library store at Kensington Central Library is full of treasures kept for students, researchers, and anyone interested in history. But you don’t have to be interested in old battles to dig this history. What about words?

Dictionary of the English Language - 1788
Dictionary of the English Language – 1788

There are shelves of books about the history of language. From 1788 we have A Dictionary of the English Language to which are added An Alphabetical Account of the Heathen Deities; and a list of the Cities, Towns, Boroughs, and remarkable Villages, in England and Wales. All this in one tiny volume that would fit in your jacket pocket, published in 1788 for W. Peacock on “Fleet-Street.”

Samuel Johnson's dictionary
Samuel Johnson’s dictionary

For the purists we have a copy of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, one of the most famous dictionaries ever published.  It took eight years and six helpers to compile and was hoped to stabilise the rules of the English language.  Ours is from 1814 so it isn’t a first edition but it still contains all the words he allegedly made up, and other words he says are “low” such as gambler and traipse.

Dictionary of Derivations - 1872
Dictionary of Derivations – 1872

In A Dictionary of the Derivations of the English Language in which each word is traced to its primary root forming a Text Book Of Etymology with definitions and the pronunciation of each word, we learn that the word browse used to refer to the act of nibbling on the twigs of shrubs.  What we’d really like to know is when titles stopped being an entire page long. This book was published in 1872.

In a Word - Cheater
In a Word – Cheater

There’s a 1939 copy of In A Word by Margaret S. Ernst and illustrated by celebrated New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber. This one seems to argue that a picture—or at least a drawing—really is worth 1000 words.

In a Word - Pardon
In a Word – Pardon
In a Word - Gospel
In a Word – Gospel

To keep them in usable condition for a long as possible these and many more books are only available on request and we’re thrilled when they’re requested. Search the Kensington and Chelsea library catalogue for what interests you and come in to visit some of our treasures.

Jennifer Brubacher, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Kensington Central Reference Library