Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/8

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The Dictionary of National Biography

Dictionary. The result was very valuable, and all subsequent lists were every half-year — in October and April — submitted to the like test of public criticism before they were distributed among the contributors to the Dictionary.

It was determined at the outset to publish successive volumes of the work at quarterly intervals. Much research was involved and much time was required in the compilation and editing of a sufficient number of articles to make up a volume. Not only was it intended to present as far as possible in every case the latest results of biographical and historical research, but the principles of the Dictionary obliged contributors to seek information from first-hand authorities, and often from unpublished papers and records. It was made an indispensable condition that writers should append to each article a full list of the sources whence their information was derived. In order to insure punctuality in the projected quarterly issue, it was therefore necessary that the work should be far advanced before the first volume appeared. Two years' preliminary preparation was essential before publication could be safely commenced. Accordingly it was not until the 1st of January 1885 that the first volume (Abbadie to Anne) was published. The volume contained 505 separate articles, from the pens of eighty-seven contributors.

Since the date of the appearance of the first volume a further instalment, averaging 460 pages, has been issued with unbroken punctuality on every successive quarter-day until the completion of the work. From Christmas 1884 until Midsummer 1900, through fifteen and a half years, the original promise of quarterly publication has been faithfully kept. No similar literary undertaking, embodying equally thorough and extensive research, and proceeding from an equally large body of writers, has either been produced with a like regularity in regard to the issue of the several parts, or has been finally completed within a shorter period of time.

The publication of sixty-three quarterly volumes in fifteen and a half years compares very favourably with the modes and rates of publication which have characterised the issue of cyclopædias of national biography abroad. The successive volumes of foreign dictionaries have invariably appeared at irregular intervals, and in the case of every work which has any claim to be compared with this Dictionary, the publication of the whole has spread over far more years than in the case of the ‘Dictionary of National Biography.’ The publication of the Swedish Dictionary of National Biography in twenty-three volumes covered twenty-two years (1885−57); the Dutch Dictionary, in twenty-four volumes, occupied twenty-six years (1852−78); the Austrian Dictionary, in sixty volumes,