Guide to whoville*

Who's Who 2015What links Carlos Acosta, Gillian Anderson, Damon Albarn and Bianca Jagger?

The answer unfortunately is not that they have all been seen popping into Marylebone Library on the way to dine at the Chiltern Firehouse. In fact they are four of the 869 new entries to be found in the 2015 edition of Who’s Who, having been selected and invited by the publishers to compile their entry for the directory.

Who’s Who can be consulted in the familiar red printed volumes at Westminster Reference Library or Marylebone Information Service. Alternatively make use of your library membership to access it from the 24/7 Library: Who’s Who

This online resource incorporates the entries from Who Was Who to produce a biographical record of over 133,000 individuals starting from the 1897 edition. The Who Was Who entry is simply taken from the individual’s last Who’s Who entry.

Individuals are not confined to residents within the British Isles. Heads of states are included and it was rather a shock to discover the Adolf Hitler entry which included his Bavarian and Berlin addresses should you have wished to send him a letter in 1940.

Unlike the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the entries are purely factual… or more accurately facts that the individual concerned has supplied, such as education, honours, memberships, publications details, hobbies etc. The last category I suspect are sometimes fanciful joke entries.
With the onus upon the individual to supply details there is nothing to stop them from omitting specific details such as the name of their first spouse or perhaps the embarrassing fact that at some point in their life they had served a prison sentence, naming no names Mr Fry. Not surprisingly, Sir Anthony Blunt, the former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and Soviet agent did not include that in his CV. His entry and that of the vanished Lord Lucan must be rare examples in which the editors have amended the entries. In the case of Blunt there is reference of his knighthood being cancelled and annulled following his exposure as a Russian spy.

Despite this caveat, Who’s Who is a useful resource to check up on details of a person’s life and achievements. In addition, should you wish to contact an individual the entry usually includes a contact address, even if it usually that of their agent, employer or publisher. You might get a reply as I did. Having found from Who’s Who (pre internet days) his agent’s details, I wrote to the author Terry Pratchett. To my surprise he replied within a month discussing the points I had made in my letter.

[Francis]

* Apologies to Dr Seuss fans for the perhaps unexpected subject of this post. We hope you find it useful anyway 🙂

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