Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/7

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A Statistical Account

execution of the task until Mr. Smith began operations on this Dictionary in 1882. The design satisfied none of the conditions of a merely commercial venture. It was obvious from the first that the outlay would far exceed that hitherto involved in publishers' undertakings, and there was little or no prospect of a return of the capital that was needed to secure the completion of the work on a thoroughly adequate scale. But it was in no commercial spirit that Mr. Smith embarked on the enterprise, and he has ignored considerations of profit and loss in providing for its conduct to a successful issue.

Mr. Leslie Stephen was appointed editor in the autumn of 1882, and active work was then commenced. A list of names which it was judged desirable to treat under A was compiled under Mr. Stephen's direction by Mr. H. R. Tedder, with some assistance from Mr. C. F. Keary. It was essential that the Dictionary should codify all scattered biographical efforts that had hitherto been made in the country. Thus the first, like the subsequent lists of names, which formed the primary foundation of the work, comprised all names that had hitherto been treated in independent works of biography, in general dictionaries, in collections of lives of prominent members of various classes of the community, and in obituary notices in the leading journals and periodicals. At the same time it was found that many names which had hitherto escaped biographical notice were as important as many of those which had already received some kind of attention from biographers. These omissions it was the special province of a new and complete Dictionary to supply. For this purpose it was necessary to explore in the task of gathering the names a wide field of historical and scientific literature, and to take a survey of the most miscellaneous records and reports of human effort. The first list of names, which was compiled in accordance with these principles, was, as soon as it was printed, posted on the 10th of January 1883 to persons — most of them being specialists of literary experience — who it was believed would be willing and competent to write articles. Numerous applications were received from those who were prepared to contribute to the Dictionary, and the names in A were distributed among the applicants by Mr. Stephen. Meanwhile the original editorial staff was finally constituted by the appointment of Mr. Thompson Cooper to the post of compiler of the lists of names to be treated under B and future letters, and Mr. Stephen selected Mr. Sidney Lee in March 1883 to fill the office of assistant-editor.

The second list of names (Baalun−Beechey) was completed in June 1883, and by the kindness of the editor of the ‘Athenæum’ it was printed in the columns of that journal. Headers of the ‘Athenæum’ were invited to offer suggestions or corrections to the editor of the