The history of the Polish Biographical Dictionary
The initiator of the Polish Biographical Dictionary and its first editor in Chief in 1931-1949 was Wladyslaw Konopczynski (born 1880- died 1952) – historian, professor of the Jagiellonian University, recognized authority on the history of Poland from the 16th to the 18th century. He was a prisoner of the Sachsenhausen camp during World War II. In 1948 the Communist authorities forced him to resign from his position at the university, and in 1949 – to give up his post as edition in Chief of the Polish Biographical Dictionary.
Rules for the preparation of the publication took shape in the years 1931-1934. The first volume of the Polish Biographical Dictionary was published by the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1935. Four volumes were published before World War II, encompassing biographies up to entry Dabrowski Ignacy.
After World War II, two volumes edited by Konopczynski were published in the years 1946-1949, up to entry Firlej Henryk. Four issues for the next volume were also prepared. The publication of the Dictionary was suspended for 10 years during the Stalinist regime. It was resumed in 1958 with the publication of Volume 7 which mostly included materials prepared by the late Konopczynski.
Starting with volume 8, the Polish Biographical Dictionary was published with Kazimierz Lepszy as editor in Chief. Lepszy (born 1904- died 1964) was a professor and Rector of the Jagiellonian University and an authority on the history of Poland between the 16th and the 18th century, on the history of Pomerania and Polish military fleet. He was editor in Chief of three subsequent volumes, up to entry Jarosinski Pawel.
During the following 25 years (1964-1989) the editor in Chief was Emanuel Rostworowski who shaped the present form of the Polish Biographical Dictionary. Rostworowski (1923-1989) was a professor of the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a scholar of the political history and culture of the 18th century, who oversaw the publication of 22 subsequent volumes of the Dictionary. Under his direction, the quality of published biographies improved significantly. The authors’ and editors’ archive research led to discovering new information and to correction of repetitive errors in literature. The criteria of the selection of personages for biographies were broadened, while the descriptions of particular entries became much more detailed and systematized; the speed of publishing new volumes increased, as well as the size of individual volumes. Thanks to the personal authority of Rostworowski, the Dictionary published information generally censored elsewhere.
The work of Rostworowski was continued by his successor as editor in Chief in the years 1989-2002, Henryk Markiewicz (b. 1922), professor of the Jagiellonian University, philologist, historian of Polish literature and theoretician of literature, member of the Polish Biographical Dictionary’s Editorial Committee since 1960. The Dictionary published 9 volumes under his direction, up to entry Stanislaw August Poniatowski, as well as an issue containing supplements and corrections for volumes 1 – 40. Since censorship was abolished after 1989, it was possible to publish and supplement biographies with previously forbidden information, especially concerning members of the World War II Underground and emigrants. The precision of the editor in Chief resulted in more biographies of persons more loosely connected with Poland, as well as in far more detailed content of biographies and the inclusion of history of literature and culture context.
Professor Andrzej Romanowski (b. 1951), historian of Polish literature, has directed the Polish Biographical Dictionary since 2003.