Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/11

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
A Statistical Account

every endeavour has been made to maintain the level of the information, in the smaller as well as in the larger articles, at the highest practicable standard of fulness and accuracy.

The number of memoirs in this Dictionary is far in excess of the number of memoirs to be found in national biographies of other countries. The ‘Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie,’ which has just been completed in forty-five volumes under the auspices of the King of Bavaria, by the Historical Commission of the Bavarian ‘Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften,’ over which Rochus von Liliencron has presided, contains only 23,273 articles—or some six thousand fewer articles than appear in this Dictionary. The Austrian dictionary, ‘Der grosse Oesterreichische Hausschatz: biographisches Lexicon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich,’ which has been edited by Dr. Constant von Wurzbach under the auspices of the Imperial Academy of Vienna, does not exceed the German dictionary in the number of its memoirs. The ‘Cyclopædia of American Biography’ reaches a total of twenty thousand. The Dutch dictionary, ‘Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden,’ edited by A. G. Van der Aa, supplies only some ten thousand articles, and the Swedish, ‘Biographiskt Lexicon öfver Namnkunnige Svenskamän,’ about four thousand. The unfinished ‘Biographie Nationale de Belgique,’ which has been prepared under the auspices of the ‘Académie Royale de Belgique,’ at present falls below a total of five thousand, but may, when completed, reach ten thousand.

The table on the next page gives statistics of the memoirs in the Dictionary, according both to the initial letters under which they fall and the centuries to which they belong. This table excludes five genealogical articles on the history respectively of the families of Arundell, Bek, Berkeley, Plantagenet, and Vere, and some eleven articles on legendary personages or creatures of romance who have been mistaken for heroes of history (e.g. Arthur of the Round Table, Fleta, Guy of Warwick, Robin Hood, Sir John Mandeville, Merlin, Didymus Mountain, Mother Shipton, St. Ursula, Matthew Westminster).

The distribution of the memoirs over the centuries suggests various reflections and admits of various interpretations. Leaving out of account the dark periods that preceded the sixth century, it will be seen that the ninth and tenth prove least fruitful in the production of men of the Dictionary's level of distinction. The seventh century was more than twice as fruitful as the ninth, and the tenth was far less fruitful than the sixth or eighth. Since the tenth century the numbers for the most part steadily increase. The eleventh century gives twice as many names as its predecessor, and supplies no more than half as many as its successor. The successive rises in the thirteenth