Biographical Dictionaries


Dictionary of Irish Biography from the Earliest Times to the Year 2002 (DIB). Ed. James McGuire and James Quinn. 9 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP for the Royal Irish Acad., 2009. CR862.D53 941.50099.

Dictionary of Irish Biography from the Earliest Times to the Year 2002 (DIB). Cambridge University Press. Cambridge UP, 2009. 14 Dec. 2012. <>.

A biographical dictionary of individuals either born in Ireland or with significant careers there and who died before the end of 2002; the electronic DIB includes individuals who died after 2002. The signed entries, which range from 200 to 15,000 words, cover the famous or notorious from all walks of life, with the editors giving “primacy to achivement over position” in choosing biographees. When possible, entries combine factual information with “an assessment of the significance of an individual’s career” and conclude with a list of sources (print, manuscript, and electronic). Users should familiarize themselves with the explanation of the treatment of names (1: xxv).

The electronic DIB can be browsed by name or contributor. Basic Search allows users to search by name or full text; Advanced Search allows users to search by a combination of name, gender, dates (birth, death, floruit), place of birth or death, religion, occupation, contributor, or keyword. New entries are identified on the DIB home page.

The DIB is the most authoritative dictionary of Irish biography and rightly assumes its place alongside other monumental national biographies such as the ODNB (M1425) and the ANB (Q3378). Review: Roy Foster, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 5 Feb. 2010: 3–5.

Despite the breadth of the DIB, older biographical dictionaries—such as Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd ed. (Niwot: Rinehart, 1998; 462 pp.)—remain useful. For an overview of general and specialized biographical dictionaries through 1979, see C. J. Woods, “A Guide to Irish Biographical Dictionaries,” Maynooth Review 6.1 (1980): 16–34.


Brady, Anne M., and Brian Cleeve. A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985. 387 pp. PR8727.B5 820′.9′9415.

A biographical dictionary of Irish writers, from St. Patrick to the present, that corrects many of the errors and omissions in Cleeve, Dictionary of Irish Writers, 3 vols. (Cork: Mercier, 1967–71). Brady and Cleeve includes numerous contemporary authors as well as scholars whose reputation extends beyond academe, but offers no statement of the criteria used to determine who qualifies as “Irish.” The very brief entries—which provide basic biographical information, a list of major publications, and summary critical comments on major writers—are organized in two divisions: writers in English and writers in Irish and Latin. Additions appear on p. 254. Both editions are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). This work offers the widest coverage (especially of contemporary authors) but the least information of the biographical dictionaries of Irish writers.

See also

Dictionary of Irish Literature (N2925).

Dictionary of Literary Biography (J600).

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (M1425).