The Dictionary of National Biography is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published from 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and he approached Leslie Stephen, then editor of the Cornhill Magazine, owned by Smith, to become editor. Stephen persuaded Smith that the work should focus on subjects from the UK and its present, an early working title was the Biographia Britannica, the name of an earlier eighteenth-century reference work. The first volume of the Dictionary of National Biography appeared on 1 January 1885, in May 1891 Leslie Stephen resigned and Sidney Lee, Stephens assistant editor from the beginning of the project, succeeded him as editor. While much of the dictionary was written in-house, the DNB also relied on external contributors, by 1900, more than 700 individuals had contributed to the work. Successive volumes appeared quarterly with complete punctuality until midsummer 1900, when the series closed with volume 63, the year of publication, the editor and the range of names in each volume is given below. The supplements brought the work up to the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901. The dictionary was transferred from its original publishers, Smith, Elder & Co. to Oxford University Press in 1917, until 1996, Oxford University Press continued to add further supplements featuring articles on subjects who had died during the twentieth century. The supplements published between 1912 and 1996 added about 6,000 lives of people who died in the century to the 29,120 in the 63 volumes of the original DNB. In 1993 a volume containing missing biographies was published and this had an additional 1,000 lives, selected from over 100,000 suggestions. Consequently, the dictionary was becoming less and less useful as a reference work, in 1966, the University of London published a volume of corrections, cumulated from the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. There were various versions of the Concise Dictionary of National Biography, the last edition, in three volumes, covered everyone who died before 1986. In the early 1990s Oxford University Press committed itself to overhauling the DNB, the new dictionary would cover British history, broadly defined, up to 31 December 2000. The research project was conceived as a one, with in-house staff co-ordinating the work of nearly 10,000 contributors internationally. Following Matthews death in October 1999, he was succeeded as editor by another Oxford historian, Professor Brian Harrison, in January 2000. The new dictionary, now known as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes in print at a price of £7500, most UK holders of a current library card can access it online free of charge. In subsequent years, the print edition has been able to be obtained new for a lower price. At publication, the 2004 edition had 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives, a small permanent staff remain in Oxford to update and extend the coverage of the online edition
George Murray Smith conceived of the DNB, subsidised it, and saw it finally into print before he died in 1901.
The volumes of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.