The Dictionary of Literary Biography is a specialist encyclopedia dedicated to literature published by Gale. The 375 volumes (as of 2006)[1] cover a wide variety of literary topics, periods, and genres, with a focus on American and English literature .[2]

Purpose and scopeEdit

In the "Plan of the Series", the series editors write that "Our purpose is to make literature and its creators better understood and more accessible to students and the reading public, while satisfying the needs of teachers and researchers."[3] They define literature as "the intellectual commerce of a nation; not merely belles lettres but as that ample and complex process by which ideas are generated, shaped, and transmitted." (emphasis in original) The series thus includes biographies of historians, journalists, publishers, book collectors, and screenwriters.[3] The biographies themselves are focused on the author's writings and the development of his or her career.[3] In addition to author biographies, the series publishes volumes on literary topics, periods, and genres. Some authors appear in multiple volumes, as befits their work.[3] The DLB Documentary Series is directed particularly at students.[3]

Each volume is overseen by an expert in the field, who shapes the volume.[4] Each article is approximately 3,000 to 5,000 words long and the biographies include basic information, such as birth/death dates, a bibliography of the author's works, and a "further reading" list of sources on the author and his or her works.[1] Each volume is illustrated by relevant drawings, paintings, or photographs of the authors as well as title pages of their works since "the reader's understanding of the author [is] enhanced by a knowledge of his environment".[4]

As of 2006, the series had 375 volumes, which included 23 yearbooks and 45 documentary volumes. Altogether, the series included 13,500 author biographies.[1]


The project was proposed by Frederick R. Ruffner, president of Gale, to the company Bruccoli Clark, in November 1975. After a few sample entries were written, an advisory board was appointed to design the format of the entire series. The first volume was published in 1978.[3] DLB Yearbooks began to be published between 1981 and 2002 to keep the series up-to-date.[3] These have now been discontinued.[1] The series is currently published and distributed by Thomson Gale, but produced in Columbia, South Carolina by Bruccoli Clark Layman, a company made up of well-known scholars Matthew J. Bruccoli, Richard Layman and the now deceased C.E. Frazer Clark, Jr..[1] . The DLB exists in both print and electronic versions. The electronic version offers easy links to articles across the volumes, continuous updates, as well as a sophisticated search mechanism.[1] As of 2006, approximately 85 percent of the series was online.[5]


In an article about the DLB in the Library Journal, Michael Rogers wrote that "it is hands-down the best overall literary reference work ever published" but that many reference librarians had probably never heard of it.[1] Choice has named the DLB an Outstanding Academic Book four times and American Library Association's Reference and User Services Association has twice named it as an Outstanding Reference Source.[1]


  • DLB Advisory Board. "Plan of the Series". Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Documentary Volume. Ed. Tom Quirk. DLB 343. Detroit: Gale, 2009. ISBN 078768161X.
  • Rogers, Michael. "Democratizing Literature". Library Journal (15 June 2006): 106-107.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Rogers, 106.
  2. Stokes, Cindy Lee. A Categorical Guide to the DLB. Indiana University (Bloomington). Retrieved 6 April 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Plan of the Series", xix.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Plan of the Series", xx.
  5. Rogers, 107.

External linksEdit

de:Dictionary of Literary Biography fr:Dictionary of Literary Biography

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