The "damned dictionary"

The Babu hears that OUP India will soon release a Dictionary of National Biography, presumably on the lines of the original UK volume. John Ezard, who contributed an entry on Dame Barbara Cartland to the mammoth UK tome, explains what it’s like to be part of history:

“…the late Dame Barbara now carries my entire hope of posterity, as well as her own. Tomorrow, the small coracle of my Cartland article – 2,000 words long – will join with a mighty flotilla of others in the 45m-word published text of the DNB. When its 60 embargoed volumes hit libraries and bookshops with gigantic thuds in the morning, Dame Barbara will sit beside Shakespeare, who has deposed Queen Victoria as the longest entry, and also beside Keith Moon, dead drummer of the Who. For this is not just any old DNB supplement covering a recent decade only. It is the entirely revised, £6,500 New Dictionary of National Biography stretching from the dawn of human time in the British Isles to the famous who died just before its cut-off point of December 31 2001: from Pete Marsh, aka Lindow Man, the garotted relic from the first century AD found in a Cheshire peat bog, to the singer Kirsty McColl, the singing postman Allan Smethurst, the bandleader Jimmy Shand and Sir Jack Jacob, barrister and legal scholar, all of whom died just before the cut-off date.

It is the first revised edition since the novelist Virginia Woolf’s father Leslie Stephen produced the original 117 years ago… Stephen, philosopher, athlete, critic, mountaineer and liberal agnostic, accepted the commission to edit “the damned dictionary”, as he came to call it, in 1880, the year of Virginia Woolf’s birth.”

(Link via Bookninja.)

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