odnb

Today marks a historic moment in British history: the Queen has become the longest-reigning monarch. To celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - and England’s other influential female monarchs - Oxford Reference have created a timeline that begins with the first Queen Elizabeth in 1487.

Image: Queen Elizabeth II and Philip, 1953. By Cecil Beaton. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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“I swore silently. I’d never taken any interest in the dates when members of the aristocracy were elevated to even higher levels of rank and privilege. When I needed to know, I looked it up in the Dictionary of National Biography. Now I’d insulted Matthew’s boss.”—Shadow of Night real-time reading, Ch. 25

The photos show the reference books Diana is referring to when she meets William Cecil. The dictionary contains 5,000 biographies of notable figures from British history. 

Most library card holders in the UK can access the dictionary online free of charge. Or you can purchase the volumes for the “moderate” price of USD $2,600. 

Links:

Best job description of all time

So I have been doing some more research for my wonderful term paper, and once more looked up Francis Lovell in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to see if there was an approximate mention of how old he was when his father died and he inherited all those titles and lands. (The answer seems to be “either seven or nine”. Well, that`s helpful.) Anyway, doing that, I noticed for the first time how he is listed. When you search someone in the ODNB, their name pops up, birth and death dates, and behind that, a few words explaining who they were. And Francis is listed as “Lovell, Francis, Viscount Lovell (…), administrator and rebel.”

ADMINISTRATOR AND REBEL!

This has got to be the best job description ever. And it`s a pretty concise summary, too.

The entry is, by necessity, a short one, and not very informative. Though there is one brilliant bit where an official report about him after the Battle of Stoke Field is quoted, saying he “was discomfited and fled”. Which (1) told everyone he really hadn`t won, just in case they had doubts - he was “discomfited”, people, really - and (2) shows that whoever phrased that had a pretty sweet way of dealing with words and managed to make the fact of “for the third time in a row now, we have not been able to catch that guy and haven`t got the foggiest where he is” sound less like the defeat it was.

I need more quotes about the man.

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Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a collection of free podcasts? They tell the life stories of the men and women that have shaped British history and culture, including:

  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Agatha Christie
  • Paul Robeson
  • Fred Perry
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Wilfred Owen
  • J R R Tolkien
  • John Lennon

Read the podcast magazine or check out the full podcast list on the ODNB site.

Image credit: Princess Diana, public domain. Agatha Christie, creative commons. Paul Robeson, public domain via Library of Congress. Fred Perry, public domain. Audrey Hepburn and J R R Tolkien courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Wilfred Owen, public domain. John Lennon, creative commons via Charles LeBlanc Flickr.

The ODNB. WOW.

Today at University we were introduced to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies. It’s really good. And through our university, we get access to it. AMAZING RESOURCE.

Pasqua Rosee, founder of London's first coffee-house
  • Pasqua Rosee, founder of London's first coffee-house
  • The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Pasqua Rosee, founder of London’s first coffee-house.

“ Rosee was an energetic entrepreneur and he took great pains to promote the novel practice of coffee drinking. He published a handbill advertisement entitled The Vertue of the Coffee Drink (c.1652), in which he claimed credit for being the first person to sell coffee publicly in England. His handbill described coffee as ‘a simple innocent thing, composed into a drink, by being dryed in an oven and ground to powder and boiled up with spring water’. He identified coffee as having both cold and dry qualities according to the humoural principles of Galenic medicine. The medicinal properties of coffee were also endorsed by Rosee, who claimed that it ‘is good against sore eyes’ as well as headaches. His belief that coffee ‘will prevent drowsiness and make one fit for business’ has proved more resilient than his other claims for the drink’s medical benefits.”

The Story of Pasqua Rosee is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Image: 17th Century Coffee House England by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I love it when ODNB articles get sassy. On Southey: 

“He attached particular importance to this poem [Madoc], regarding his previous work as exercises to prepare him for its composition. ‘I looked to this’, he wrote in a draft preface (prudently discarded) ‘as the monument to perpetuate my memory’ (Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, MS 221.1). The indifference of the reading public on this occasion disappointed him.”

I’m kind of starting to get Stockholm Syndrome writing about Southey, ngl. Need to read some Byron and cleanse my palate.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter in Henry VIII's court
  • John Blanke, a black trumpeter in Henry VIII's court
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: John Blanke, a black trumpeter in Henry VIII’s court

His surname may have originated as a nickname, derived from the word blanc in French or blanco in Spanish, both meaning ‘white’. Blanke was part of a wider trend for European rulers to employ African musicians, dating from at least 1194, when turbaned black trumpeters heralded the entry of the Holy Roman emperor Henry VI into Palermo in Sicily. It has been suggested that Blanke arrived in England with Katherine of Aragon when she came to marry Arthur, prince of Wales, in 1501. Between 1507 and 1512 Blanke was one of eight royal trumpeters under the leadership of Peter de Casa Nova. The first payment to ‘John Blanke, the blacke Trumpet’ was made in early December 1507, when he was paid 20s. (8d. a day) for his services in the previous month

The story of John Blanke is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Image: Black trumpeter at Henry VIII’s tournament. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Forgotten Hero: Edith Louisa Cavell

The organization provided soldiers with hiding places and with false papers, and facilitated their escape into allied territory. Use was made of the clinic, with soldiers often disguised as patients. During this period Edith Cavell was correspondent of the Nursing Mirror and had accounts published of the impact of the war on Belgium.

Learn more about Edith Louisa Cavell in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. We’ll be bringing you biographies of forgotten heroes from the First World War along with other information during the centenary year.

Image credit: A portrait of nurse Edith Cavell as she sits in a garden her two dogs. Imperial War Museum. IWM Non Commercial Licence via Wikimedia Commons. 

Happy UK National Libraries Day!

Today is UK National Libraries Day, and we’re celebrating libraries across the UK and beyond with a selection of free content.

Read more about the development of circulating libraries, discover the ancient libraries of the Ottoman Empire and Assyria, or enjoy an audio biography of a favourite literary writer.

What is your favourite library to visit?

Image credit books education school literature by Hermann. Public domain via Pixabay.

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Publisher Jo Hanks recently discovered a “lost” Beatrix Potter story, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. But just who was Beatrix Potter, famed author of several classics in children’s literature?

Potter’s first published book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, originally came from an illustrated story she had sent to one of the children of her last governess, Annie Moore. Soon, Potter had produced 22 uniformly produced “little books” which were published by Frederick Warne & Co. Many of these books featured her own pets – Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, and Samuel Whiskers.

Explore the life and work of beloved author Beatrix Potter with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Image Credit: (1) “Peter Rabbit” and (2) “Grown Up Peter” by Beatrix Potter. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Audrey Hepburn, film actress
  • Audrey Hepburn, film actress
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: Audrey Hepburn, film actress (1929-1993).

“In childhood Hepburn had shown an aptitude in ballet lessons—maintained with difficulty under the occupation—which helps explain the grace of movement and natural serenity that distinguished her film stardom. Her career-in-waiting was hinted at just before mother and daughter left the Netherlands for London about 1947. Then seventeen or eighteen, she secured a role as an air stewardess in a tourist film, Dutch in Seven Lessons (1948), produced for the Dutch airline KLM. Her charming smile was the first of many on screen. In London she was accepted into the Ballet Rambert but her self-critical sense told her she lacked the precision (and possibly the physique) to succeed in that art. After trying other short-term outlets—as a fashion model, and as a travel clerk—she was hired for the chorus line of Jack Hylton’s musical High Button Shoes, gaining promotion to solo spots in intimate revue. Her radiant personality won her minor roles in several British films (including Laughter in Paradise, 1951, and The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951). Though these were somewhat decorative parts, her photographic charm earned her a three-year contract (at £12 a week) with a major studio, Associated British Picture Corporation. Ironically, she never made a film for her employers.”

The story of Audrey Hepburn is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Image: Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Gif via Giphy.com.

Today (15 August) marks 50 years since The Beatles invited over 55,000 fans to ‘Come Together’ at Shea Stadium, NYC, to play for them a show which set a precedent for future stadium rock concerts, breaking attendance and revenue records. Across the U.S people are celebrating this day in music history by singing and dancing along to tribute acts and performers who were inspired by The Beatles: the best-selling band in history.

Learn more about three of the men behind the music with Who’s Who and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Paul McCartneyGeorge Harrison, and John Lennon.

Image: The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Kennedy Airport by United Press International. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Roald Dahl
  • Roald Dahl
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: Roald Dahl, author of Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

By the end of his life Dahl was bitter at not receiving the knighthood that he felt he deserved, and he became increasingly self-important, ordering a Rolls-Royce from his publisher’s to collect manuscripts from his home. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall, a chain-smoker, a lover of fine wine, a collector of contemporary painting, a grower of roses and orchids, a picture restorer, and a gambler on horses. He looked after 100 budgerigars that flew wild around his garden. He was a chocaholic. In the garden hut where he wrote he kept a huge silver ball made by packing together the silver paper from all the chocolate bars he ate. He also kept there as a trophy to show visitors one of his arthritic hip bones which had been replaced.

The story of Roald Dahl is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Image: Roald Dahl, by the Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Arthur Conan Doyle, writer
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, writer
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: Arthur Conan Doyle, writer

Conan Doyle’s fiction made astonishing progress in the early 1880s. He learned the economics of the short story from the work of Guy de Maupassant and from the Edinburgh medical journals with their logical progress from case-statement to collection of symptoms, rival diagnoses, and finally to ultimate conclusion and explanation. His first translation of these techniques into fiction ended in what is now called A Study in Scarlet. The story brought together Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson for the first time and a lifelong series was launched.

The story of Arthur Conan Doyle is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.

Image: Portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle, The Canadian Magazine. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.