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Aims of the NDB

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The Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) gives concise, thoroughly prepared biographies of deceased persons who have had a significant impact on developments in politics, economics, social life, scholarship, technology or the arts. Since many decades the NDB, with its original articles by notable authors, has been regarded as the authoritative biographical dictionary for all regions in which German is spoken and German culture is prevalent.

The NDB covers the period from the early middle ages down to the present and is arranged alphabetically. Since 1953 twentyseven volumes were published, containing more than 23'000 biographies of individuals and families covering the alphabet from Aachen to Wettiner. The articles include detailed information on genealogy, selective lists of works by the subjects themselves and of secondary literature, and references to portraits. There are also full indexes. The entire work is to be completed by the year 2023 in a further volume with among 700 articles. Volume 27, reaching as far as "Wettiner", was published in February 2020.

The first German national biography, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB), appeared in 56 volumes from 1875 to 1912 (reprint 1967 to 1971, also online). This was published by the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. It is widely used even today. The NDB follows the tradition of the ADB, but is an independent work with original contributions based on the latest research. In comparison with the ADB the selection of articles is more rigorous, the presentation more concise, and the articles more clearly structured with a genealogical introduction and separate lists of works and secondary sources. Articles on families make it possible to give, within a broader context, at least a brief sketch of people not dealt with in articles of their own. The indexes of the NDB list also all entries in the ADB. The approach taken by the NDB has set standards of scholarship for biographical dictionaries both in Germany and abroad.

From 1945 on the idea of a new National Biography was vigorously pursued by the historians Walter Goetz and Otto Graf zu Stolberg-Wernigerode. They obtained the support of the Historical Committee at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. In 1949 the publishers Duncker & Humblot took over the printing and marketing of the NDB. Whereas the ADB had been edited by Rochus von Liliencron almost singlehanded, the NDB was provided with an editorial board with full-time employees and a permanent office in Munich. The first Director Graf Stolberg held the position from 1950 to 1968. He has been followed by Walter Bussmann (1968-69), Fritz Wagner (1969-87), Karl Otmar Freiherr von Aretin (1987-98), Hans Günter Hockerts (1998-2012), Maximilian Lanzinner (2013) and Hans-Christof Kraus (since January 2014).

The editorial board of the NDB presently consists of the five scholars each of whom is responsible for a particular subject area . The board selects the people to be included in the work, appoints appropriate authors, and edits the articles for printing.

The aims of the NDB have remained unchanged from the beginning. It is meant to give a broad historical and biographical coverage of all regions characterised by German language and culture. With an average article length of three quarters of a page the NDB can provide important biographical information on the covered persons while also discussing their historical significance. Selective lists of works and secondary literature indicate further reading. The genealogical data help to define the place of individual lives in the general history of society.

The editing of articles starts from a main database NDBIO, which is continually being extended and at present comprises about 160'000 names. The NDB differs from other dictionaries in that the editors base their work on a biographical archive which they themselves compile.

More information on the form of NDB articles and the ideas underlying them can be found in notes of guidance for authors. These will be supplied on request by the editorial board.

(3) Notes of Guidance for Authors.

Authors are kindly requested to bear the following points in mind:

In general: the manuscripts should be submitted with the text on one side of the paper, double wide spacing between lines, and a broad margin. Please avoid the use of abbreviations, as these will be introduced according to a standard list when the article is edited. Surnames should be accompanied by first names, as far as these are known; this applies equally to the names of authors, editors and artists in the lists of publications and portraits. This is particularly important where the surname is a common one, for example Fischer, Meier, Müller, Schmidt, Schulze or Schneider.

We would be grateful if authors to send the text via e-mail. Lines should consist of 65 characters including spaces. Words should not be divided, and a line should be left blank between paragraphs.

Please note in particular: as articles are printed continuously, the editorial board is obliged to keep to fixed deadlines. Having accepted to write an article, you are therefore asked, to complete and return the reply card as soon as possible and to submit your contribution by the agreed date. Please give your account number and the name and code number of your bank; this speeds up the payment of honoraria. lf no reply is received, or if deadlines are exceeded or reminders left unanswered, the editorial board may commission another author.

The author is responsible for individual articles, the publisher for the work as a whole. The editorial board reserves the right to standardise articles, as is the norm in reference works, and to shorten them if the text is longer than agreed. Significant alterations or additions are made in consultation with the author. Where disputes arise and no agreement can be reached, there is no obligation to print the article.

Before diskettes are sent to printing, the author receives a computer print-out of his or her article. This should be checked and returned to the editorial board within a maximum of three weeks. lf no corrections are received within this time, the article is deemed to have been accepted in its edited form.

Each author receives at least three copies of the article when the volume has been published.

On the structure of articles:

1. Full name (please indicate by bold type or underlining the name by which the subject was commonly known), occupation, date and place of birth, date and place of death, tomb, religious denomination.

2. Information on the family.

3. Career, achievements, critical evaluation.

4. List of works.

5. List of sources and secondary literature.

6. References to portraits.

7. Full name of the author.

1) Please give all variant spellings of surnames. Where appropriate, you should also give pseudonyms, pen names, stage names, and names taken in religious orders. When describing the subject's occupation please use terms which are relevant to his or her inclusion in the NDB, for example 'zoologist' rather than 'keeper of the natural history collection'.

2) In the section information on the family please give the names, dates of birth and death and occupations of the subject's parents, grandparents, spouse, spouse's parents, and children, as far as these are obtainable without too much difficulty. lt is also desirable to mention relatives who are of general interest and to give further references as appropriate. lf such details are not readily available, please inform the editorial staff early so that they can make their own enquiries. We are particularly grateful for information about living relatives, in view of the legal protection of personal data.

3) In describing the subject's career please mention those people who had a lasting influence on him or her. You may evaluate the subject's personality and achievements either in the course of the biographical narrative or at the end, though the latter will be the general rule. In every case the text should explain the subject's importance in his or her field and in its later development, and also how the subject was regarded by contemporaries and posterity. You should also mention any significant achievements or major activities outside the subject's normal occupation, as well as memberships, honours, titles and decorations.
The editorial board asks that articles should be written in a concise, lucid and generally accessible manner. Please avoid telegraphic style.

4) You may decide to include a critical evaluation of all or some of the subject's main works in the body of the article. Other significant titles can be mentioned in the list of works. You should always refer to published lists of works, even incomplete ones. Please give details of first and last editions and translations into foreign languages.

5) Please include a critical selection of secondary literature and extended obituaries. Available bibliographies should always be mentioned. Where applicable, a reference to the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie with volume number heads the list. Printed sources come next. These are followed by other publications - arranged in chronological order, except that works by the same author are not separaten. Biographical and bibliographical reference works and encyclopedias are listed at the end. When citing articles from periodicals or collections you should give the author's name, the exact title of the article, volume number, year and page numbers. lf you have made direct use of archives, please indicate which ones.

6) As far as possible you should list important portraits of the subject, giving the artist's name, the year in which the portrait was made, and its present location. Portraits include oil paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, funerary and other monuments, medals, photographs etc. Where portraits appear in the publications listed under (4) or (5), this should be indicated by adding (P) to the references in those lists.

Translation by John Blundell (Thesaurus linguae Latinae)

Edited by:
Bernhard Ebneth, Neue Deutsche Biographie, Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities


(1) Aims of the NDB

(2) Secondary Literature

(3) Notes of Guidance for Authors

(4) Available Volumes

(5) Subject Areas

(6) Staff

(7) Indexes

(8) Authors

(9) Further Biographical Dictionaries

(10) Example of Biographical Articel

(11) Selected List of Biographical Collected Editions 1992 - 1997

(12) Further Links

(13) Further Digital Biographical Information

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