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The reference books listed on this page are just our most helpful books. To find others, use the catalog search on the "Books" page.
If you can't find someone's biography online or if you
need more information, don't neglect the library's print collection. If you know nothing about a person, begin
with Biography and Genealogy Master Index or Biography Index. Those indexes will guide you to sources with biographical
sketches about your subject. If you already know something about the person,
such as his nationality or occupation, you can begin with a specialized book.
For example, if you wanted to know about a U.S.
president, you could check American
National Biography; if you wanted to know about the author of a book, you
might check Contemporary Authors.
The specialized works listed below are just a small fraction of the
biographical sources available in the Mack Library. Check the library catalog
for others, or ask a library worker for a recommendation.
American National Biography by
Call Number: 920.073 Am349
ANB is the most authoritative source for biographies of important Americans. It covers from the colonial America to very near the present, but all its subjects are deceased. It is more selective than some sources (it has been called “who’s really who”), but it provides detailed, lengthy essays written by leading scholars. Each entry lists the primary and best secondary sources available for the life of the subject. The supplementary volumes contain an index by occupation.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by
Call Number: 920.041 Ox25
DNB is the most authoritative, and perhaps most comprehensive, source for biographies of important Britons. It covers from the earliest times to AD 2000, but all its subjects are deceased. It provides detailed, lengthy essays written by leading scholars. Each entry lists the best secondary sources available for the life of the subject. An earlier edition written by different authors is available in dead reference; see a librarian to consult it.
African American National Biography by
Call Number: 920.009296073 Af834
A complement to American National Biography, AANB is the most authoritative and comprehensive source for biographies of African Americans.
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