Digital Dictionary of Quaker Biography

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1955 Introduction to the Dictionary of Quaker Biography

In thus isolating Friends from the large body of professing Christians, the compiler actuated by no narrow or sectarian bias. Since, however, it would be a stupendous task to make a general list of all astounding Christians, the less ambitious role has been attempted of selecting members of the Society of Friends, called Quakers, who whether in religion, education, science, art or industry have also made an outstanding contribution to life. Beyond this he has included names of some who have fallen away from first principles, have even made shipwreck of faith. It has seemed right to include others who appear to have been Friends at heart but who (as if by accident) never became members.

The difficulty of decision as to whom to include and whom to omit has been very great. Some other compiler, with a different setting and outlook, would undoubtedly have produced a very different copy. It is hoped, nonetheless, that the Dictionary will prove helpful to students of history, to genealogists, and to seekers of truth.

That regrettable misstatements, inaccuracies and omissions occur in this work must be admitted. Accordingly, corrections and suggestions will be welcomed. May the whole compilation serve as a broad target to shoot at, so that eventually a sound and comprehensive work may evolve, to the permanent enrichment of Christian biography.

William Bacon Evans
Haverford, PA USA

About the Dictionary of Quaker Biography

The Dictionary of Quaker Biography was compiled at Haverford College by William Bacon Evans (1875-1964) in the 1950s and 60s and continued by staff and volunteers in the Haverford College Quaker Collection (HCQC) and Friends House, London. It consists of approximately 20,000 entries on prominent British and American Friends from the 17th through the 20th centuries and amounts to about 32,000 typescript pages in 126 volumes, or 15 linear feet. There are two "original copies," one located at HCQC and the other at Friends House, London. Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College has a photocopy of the Haverford "copy." An index of the named entries is currently being prepared by student employees at HCQC. The DQB gets frequent use in house and is cited often by scholars of both Quaker and non-Quaker topics in many reputable journals and monographs.

Goals of the Digital Dictionary of Quaker Biography

The Digital Dictionary of Quaker Biography is a pilot project of Haverford College Special Collections to explore the possibilities of creating an online version of the highly popular Dictionary of Quaker Biography. The goals of the project are as follows:

  • Preserve and safeguard the original paper copies
  • Preserve the integrity of the original text
  • But allow it also to be edited, updated, corrected and grow
  • Address issues of scholarliness, authority, inclusion and scope
  • Make the content more widely available
  • Encourage use and contribution by a range of users
  • Promote cooperative/distributed scholarship

The project will follow the following steps:

  • Set up a test wiki using MediaWiki software
  • Scan, OCR, clean, and enter sample entries
  • Explore methods of automating this process
  • Explore the ability to include fielded data in the wiki environment
  • Develop an editorial style and explore the functionalities of the wiki environment
  • Test for usability
  • Bring on outside partners, editors, etc.
  • Seek funding
  • Move into production
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