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Wikisource:WikiProject DNB FAQ

Standard abbreviations: DNB for the Dictionary of National Biography being worked on here, comprising DNB00 (first edition 1885–1900 in 63 volumes, DNB01 first supplement in three volumes, DNB12 second supplement in three volumes. ODNB for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, OBIN for the identifiers used in the ODNB.


Q Is the DNB project complete?

The biographies created are quite some way from being fully validated, and some issues remain with replacing scans. There is work to be done adding the errata from 1904; the wikilinks corresponding to [q. v.] markings and other cases; the running headings; and the other matter in the books besides the biographies.

Q Can we be sure that all the biographies have actually been created?

It is likely that they all have, by now, but the Wikisource way to check that would be create all the volume index pages from the original, and put in all the links to biographies. Wikidata offers a chance to do further checking against the OBINs, but the initial segment of those does not map onto the DNB here in an simple-minded way.

Q Are the "see articles" among the biographies part of the project?

They are currently regarded as optional. They do play a role in the DNB's metadata footprint on Wikidata.

Q What about the third supplement?

The third supplement, covering 1912 to 1921 by death date, was published in 1927, and so does not fall into the category of public domain texts.

Q What about other editions?

There are indeed later edition texts available that are in the public domain. At this point we are not working on them. It could be useful to have the Index and Epitome text, precursor to the Concise Dictionary of National Biography but that's not currently being discussed.

The project's workEdit

Q What has the project done?

By proofreading, it has created pages of DNB opposite images of pages, in final or close-to-final state. That goes on in the Page: namespace. Then by transclusion it has also created individual biography articles in the main namespace.

Q What else?

There are over 700 author pages for the DNB authors. A small but significant proportion of the authors are difficult to identify from the information the DNB gives from them.

Q What templates are used in the
Page namespace work?

For formatting the text, {{smaller block}} for the endnotes and {{sc}} for small capitals are the essentials. Ends of pages require {{hws}} and {{hwe}} to avoid hyphenation; and the special use of {{smaller block/s}} and {{smaller block/e}} when a page break falls in the endnotes. The template {{nop}} is used at the end of the page to impose a new paragraph. The author initials at the end of the biographies have dedicated templates like {{DNB XYZ}}.

These templates form the standard markup used, but for the endnotes in particular older versions are in use (which may be replaced as found). Just a few very long articles use {{PT Shoulder Heading}} to display headings near the margins.

Q What about other templates?

The basic header is fundamental. Transcluded articles (first edition) have been created via Template:DNB00, pasted to a page in the "subst:DNB00" form. One thing you might miss: the volume number must be two digits, so 07 not 7.

Nitty-gritty of working with the materialEdit

Q What can you tell me about wikifying DNB pages?

Links are placed in the pagespace versions, obviously. We are agreed that all the [q. v.] links from the DNB to itself should be created. After that, you get into a greyer area. There are places in the DNB saying "See [another article]" which are morally as good as [q. v.] links. There are names of authors who have pages here in the Author: namespace. There are references to books and publications that are already somewhere on Wikisource, in full or as part of a project developing the text. There are more obscure things mentioned in the texts, where the general reader might be helped by an explanatory link to somewhere. We aim to conform to the loose Wikisource guideline that wikification should be "light" rather than intrusive.

Q What is the state of the volume ToCs?

For the first edition 24 (at time of writing) out of 63 are complete; the three volumes of the 1901 supplement are complete; the second supplement is not yet an active area and doesn't have volume ToCs. The incomplete volume ToCs are mostly built up a few entries at a time, as articles are created. It is good practice to enter "previous" and "next" articles on the ToC as redlinks. The manual page on volume ToC format is still to write.

Q What is the state of the DNB author page listings?

These are supposed to be done for the first edition and first supplement. They have been hand-compiled using the handbook by Gillian Fenwick, and have errors of various kinds: a few omissions and typos in Fenwick; a larger number of omissions and typos caused by the compilation; and problems with incorrect disambiguation (dates absent when they should be present, or present when they should be absent). There is an unresolved discussion about how to format these lists, which in a couple of cases run to over 1000 articles.

Q What about the plan to create volume ToCs using the author pages listings?

Works in theory, and was used to support the first supplement listings. In practice there are many errors, and sorting by ASCII isn't a really great match for the DNB article ordering.

Q You mentioned the article ordering. Can you explain?

While the DNB is basically alphabetical, the ordering scheme isn't that simple. Royals tend to come before others of the same given name; this makes the ordering of medieval names harder to describe. Also the treatment of names disambiguated by dates is a bit complicated (there are dates "d." for death date only, "fl." for floruit which may be one year or a range of years).

Q How does disambiguation work?

The main point is that the Smith, John names should be followed by dates: see Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vol 53 Smith - Stanger, which shows that Smith, John (1797-1861) is followed by Smith, John Abel with no dates. It also shows that of the two Smith, Francis names, Smith, Francis (fl.1770) is disambiguated explicitly from Smith, Francis Pettit, rather than "tacitly" which would be the effect if the date were omitted. In computer science speak, no name should be an initial string of another.

Q You're rather assuming I understand your conventions on titles. Can you say more?

The most basic point is the use of the suffix (DNB00) for the first edition, (DNB01) for the first supplement, (DNB12) for the second supplement.

The titles should not be considered "factual", since for example, the dates involved may be wrong, and in a few cases the DNB first edition gets someone's name wrong. The titles are for identifying a given biography uniquely. Most titles of nobility are taken out (including Sir). Spaces are taken out (so "d.1066" not "d. 1066"). A stage title like Mrs. in Thurmond, Mrs. is kept, but otherwise Mrs. would be omitted. Medieval names present problems: de and of are kept and count for disambiguation. Jacobite and continental European titles are treated as special cases.

Q So how do you handle errors in the DNB?

The first line is to annotate the article in the extra_notes field in the header. Certainly any gross errors should be noted there. We are developing ways to include the published Errata in the project.


Q Should I add categories to articles I create?

It is good practice to add Category:DNB needs qv if you haven't wikified the [q.v.] references. Otherwise: the DNB00 header adds maintenance categories; and topic categories to add are still a matter of debate.

Q What about cool tools?

Indeed. See Wikisource:WikiProject DNB/Tools for details.

Those problem scansEdit

Those author pagesEdit

Wikipedia and Wikidata sister projectsEdit