2003

A1 -- General Biographies


Index bio-bibliographicus notorum hominum. Pars C, Corpus alphabeticum: IBN [Bio-bibliographic Index of Notable Persons. Part C: Alphabetical Corpus]. Ed. Otto Zeller and Wolfram Zeller. Osnabrück: Biblio-Verlag. 25 cm. Vols. 1–47 ed. Jean-Pierre Lobies. ISBN 3-7648-0726-1 (set) [99-B09-003]

Sectio generalis [General Section]:
Vol. 98. Guwirsch, Jan Josef usque ad Gzylewska, Jadwiga. 1998. 366 p. DM 290

The IBN (publisher’s abbreviation) contains to date one million of a planned three million names, making it even in its unfinished state one of the richest biographical indexes available. However, it offers a key only to historical, and thus often outdated, information, as none of its sources are recent. In general, it utilizes materials published before 1970, and the further back one goes, the more sources there are, approaching a total of 4,500. Covering such a large number of sources substantially increases production time and represents one of the greatest shortcomings of the IBN, particularly as most of these sources are not recent. It would make sense to choose the best from these works, in order to increase the pace of publication.

Even better would be to publish the work electronically. This would easily allow addenda and corrections (of which there are many) to be included, and furthermore would save libraries processing costs and a good deal of space. It could also allow more searching capability. In any case, whatever the format, the publisher should be open about the fact that the IBN is a retrospective index that definitely has worth, but it is not current. [sh/nb]

Special Report: The International Bioghaphical Information System of K.G. Saur Publishers, Munich

Introduction [B99-B09-004]

There have been many reviews of the biographical archives published by Saur since the appearance of the first one, the Deutsches Biographisches Archiv [German Biographical Archive], in the early 1980s. Numerous newer archives for nations and cultures, along with expansions of previously published archives and indexes to the archives, have appeared since the last reviews in the early 1990s. An overview of the biographical archives (hereinafter referred to collectively as “BA”) will be given here in their configuration as of December 31, 1998, beginning with a survey of the indexes that are available for the archives. [Ed. note: In 2004, Saur began offering these archives in digital form under the title World Biographical Information System Online (WBIS Online). More information is available at the company’s web site: http://www.saur.de )

The proliferation of archives for 25 different nations or cultures [Ed. note: 28 in 2004] can be attributed in large part to the many libraries that subscribe to the BA on a continuing basis. This decision can easily be justified: their usefulness is due to a high number of names otherwise inaccessible by means of any national biography, and no library holds even a slim majority of all the indexed source works. It is also a positive development that the publisher, after completing the initial archives in which sources from only up through the beginning of the 20th century were evaluated, has been able to carry these forward to include more recent sources.

In the early years, lists of indexed sources were sent along with the advertising brochures, but the publisher doesn’t seem to find that necessary in all cases anymore. The advertising material itself is vague and contradictory in statements regarding the numbers of sources, of biographies extracted, and of total microfiches—leading us to assume that changes may have been made in the course of publication.

Indexes to the Biographical Archives

1. Printed Cumulative Indexes:

Printed indexes provide access to BA volumes after their completion. They serve to correct for defects that have come about by the serial nature of indexing sources and make it feasible for the name forms representing one person to be unified from various main entries and supplements. The indexes also contain numerous cross-references. Searching for an individual must always begin with the indexes, as the name form under which the person is entered may not be known by the searcher—or only known in one of the forms under which it variously appears.

The indexes offer data beyond their primary function as a finding aid: family and given name, birth and death years (but not specific dates), occupation, and country or countries of life and work in the cases of multinational BA. Although these index data do serve to distinguish among individuals, they do not really meet the publisher’s claim of being independently useful sources of biographical ready-reference information.

At first, the consumers of the BA received the corresponding indexes as cost-free inclusions, but the publisher changed this policy and now charges separately for them.

Although the indexes are indispensable for reliable research in the BA, they sometimes appear unacceptably late; at the time this review was written, several long-finished BA still had not been indexed.

2. Printed Indexes by Discipline:

Because the printed indexes to the BA are derived from one database in digital format, it is a simple matter to produce not only an overall cumulation (the International Biographical Index, hereinafter referred to collectively as “IBI”—see section 3 below), but also to compile discipline-specific indexes from the total mass of data. Examples for humanities, music, and medicine are given here: [sh/rdh]

Internationaler biographischer Index der Geisteswissenschaften: Gelehrte, Philosophen, Historiker, Philologen, Kunst- und Musikwissenschaftler = World Biographical Index of the Humanities. 2 vols. München [et al.]: Saur, 1995. xlv, 797 p. 30 cm. ISBN 3-598-11300-5: EUR 310 [99-B09-005]

Internationaler biographischer Index der Medizin: Ärzte, Naturheilkundler, Veterinärmediziner und Apotheker = World Biographical Index of Medicine. 3 vols. München [et al.]: Saur, 1996. xlvi, 1,200 p. 30 cm. ISBN 3-598-11289-0: DM 894 [99-B09-006]

Internationaler biographischer Index der Musik: Komponisten, Dirigenten, Instrumentalisten und Sänger = World Biographical Index of Music. 2 vols. München [et al.]: Saur, 1995. xl, 792 p. 30 cm. ISBN 3-598-33810-4: EUR 310 [99-B09-007]

The three indexes are set up in identical fashion: (1) source index, i.e., abbreviations and short titles of the original sources with an indication of the BA index in which they appeared; (2) alphabetical main entries by person with the data mentioned in section 1 above, including cross-references; (3) index of persons by BA. From a user’s point of view, the latter is absolutely senseless and is only there because data processing made it possible. All three of these indexes by discipline limit themselves to the six BA included in the first edition of the IBI. Thus they share the same criticism as the first edition of the IBI: they include fewer archives than were on the market at the time of their appearance and do not even include newer sources later consulted for the original archives. This was all done, no doubt, in the expectation that the customer would not look at the particulars very closely and would then also purchase the second edition, when it contained more names.

While the IBI on CD-ROM (see section 3 below) represents a sensible investment for libraries that have purchased all or many of the BA—as a means of foregoing purchase of the expensive individual indexes—this is not true of the indexes for disciplines. The only conceivable advantage—that of searching by occupation in combination with nationality and time period—is not offered. Even the possibility of separating individuals by gender—which the IBI offers—is completely lacking here. Nor is there any need for these expensive indexes merely to ascertain whether a given person is included in the BA, as this information is contained in the free Internet version of the IBI. [Ed. note: As of September 2004, Internet access to the IBI is no longer free.]

3. Updated Cumulative Indexes on CD-ROM

By 1995, the publisher had such a large pool of biographical data that it was possible to start to offer this information on a “global” basis, that is, to unite all the data from the individual indexes. The resultant digital version has the advantage over printed indexes of being easier and less expensive to update, not to mention its much better search possibilities: [sh/rdh]

Internationaler biographischer Index = World Biographical Index. 5th ed. 1 CD-ROM + guide. München [et al.]: Saur, 1998. ISBN 3-598-40396-8: EUR 1,084.20, EUR 740 (for update-subscribers) [99-B09-008]

The original (1995) edition of the Internationaler biographischer Index (IBI) included references for more than a million persons. The numbers have increased in subsequent editions to the point where the fifth edition, on the basis of which this review was written, cumulates over 2.6 million names from 17 of the 25 different BA.

The Windows CD has two modes for biographical and bibliographical searching: an expert mode and a direct search by occupation. Search fields are by name, gender (making possible a limitation to women only), birth and death years, year of biographical mention, occupation or social class (according to the source entry, not standardized), classification of occupation, designation of BA, short title of the source, and—in some instances—country. Boolean searching is sophisticated, with sequential priorities.

Preliminary search results are shown in the alphabetical short-entry lists of hits. Name, birth year, and biographical archive are given in the biographical search, while the bibliographic search offers the short title and beginning of the full title. Th e hits can be chosen from this list (individually or collectively) for the full-entry display. Up to 200 documents can be marked for downloading or printing, and notations can be made to facilitate use of a document during a later session. Context-sensitive help functions are provided, as is a printed guide. [sh/rdh]

Due to the expanded search possibilities of the IBI on CD, the recommendation to purchase the CD alone, and not the indexes organized by discipline, bears repeating.

4. Updated Cumulative Indexes on the Internet

In addition to the CD-ROM version, is is possible to search the IBI online. The WWW-version offers fewer search parameters than the CD, but is more than sufficient for simple searches. [Ed note: Recently entitled World Biographical Index and given upgraded functionality, it is now accessible free of charge only to subscribers to the World Biographical Information System Online (WBIS Online) or to those who have purchased one or more Biographical Archives during the previous 12 months. Information gleaned from the publisher’s web site indicates that it contains more than 3.5 million short biographical entries, covering 20 country or culture archives. However, by far not all currently available archives are covered yet.] [sh/rdh]

Supplemental Publication

Bibliographie zu den biographischen Archiven = Biographical Archives Bibliography. 2d rev. and expanded ed. München: Saur, 1998. 238 p. 30 cm. ISBN 3-598-33753-1: EUR 12.80 [99-B09-009]

A first bibliographic cumulation of the reference works indexed in the BA was published in 1994, perhaps as a way to entice potential customers. Whereas this first edition presented 4,490 biographical source works, the 1998 second edition grew to 6,394 entries in the short-title form familiar from the indexes. It seems an unfriendly lassitude that the compilers found it unnecessary to interpret the abbreviations used to differentiate the various BA. An introductory statement of scope and inclusion is so careless as to mention works in progress and works that are only in the planning stages.

An unforgivable defect of this bibliography stems from the fact that the titles are only given in alphabetical order, with no cross-references by geography or by discipline/ occupation (and none planned). Only then, of course, would it have been possible to judge the validity of criteria for the selection of sources. As it is, a good measure of skepticism is appropriate when it comes to selection criteria: instead of quality, the criteria seem to be based on issues such as availability, appropriateness for technical processing, and—above all—regional, class, and occupational variety. Much points to quantity coming at the cost of quality. [sh/rdh]

Personen: Biographien, Porträts und Interviews bedeutender Personen aus Geschichte und Gegenwart; Personalien aus der F.A.Z. 1993/97 [People: Biographies, Portraits and Interviews with Significant People from the Past and Present; from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1993–97]. Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1997. CD-ROM. (Th emen-CD-ROM, 10). DM 59, one-time price; DM 29 as a continuation (F.A.Z.-Versandservice, Schulstr. 12, D-65468 Trebur, fax [49 6147] 3275) [99-B09-022]

The tenth CD-ROM publication in this major German newspaper’s “Th emes” series contains over 6,000 entries from the newspaper itself, the glossy FAZ-Magazin section, and the Sunday edition. The user may consult a list of persons or invoke a user interface to search the full text of articles by (1) person; (2) type of article, i.e. “interview” or “portrait”; (3) text; (4) title; (5) series in which the article appears; (6) source of article, i.e. the FAZ proper, the Magazin section, or the Sunday edition, broken down by newspaper section. It is possible to limit by date, as well as to use basic Boolean operators. The short display of results is sorted chronologically and provides the date, source, and title information for each article. The name of the person being reviewed or interviewed is not apparent in the list of hits, even though this is the most important information to the user. Documents may be browsed, annotated by the user, marked, and printed or exported. This is not a biographical resource in the pure sense, and lacks a biographical lexicon that would greatly benefit the user by providing such basic information as dates and places of birth and death, pseudonyms used, nationality, occupation, and sex. Some individuals mentioned in the print edition are missing in the CD-ROM version. [sah/sd]


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