Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Brief Book Review - Biographical Dictionaries

Biographical dictionary contains predominantly biographical information of notable people / personalities from the past to the present day. In other means, biographical dictionary is similar to the Who's Who directory. The subject of biographical dictionary may be on selective field, for instance, arts, politics, economics, sciences, etc. Biographical dictionary provides a brief introductory on its subject which is a rudimentary for further research. The highlights of the event in a biographical dictionary are usually non-exhaustive. It is often difficult to measure people with significant substance to a subject field to be included into the dictionary. Thus, it usually does not comprehensively representing the study on social development. Pertaining to the subject interest of this blog, I have reviewed three biographical dictionaries. 

Biographical Dictionary of Mercantile Personalities of Penang was published in 2013 with 200 entries consisting of the early mercantile community in Penang. Notable Malays, Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and others spice up the rustic setting of Penang during the colonial times.  More importantly to create a melting pot awareness of how Penang was "created" out of. This 228-page book is jointly published by Think City and the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS). All the entries are well-researched and referenced by its 25 collaborators. However, with the many typos appeared could have discredited its credentials. It is anticipated for its future revision not to repeat a similar mistake. 

Biographical Dictionary of Mercantile Personalities of Penang

Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary was published in 2012 by ISEAS Publishing is perhaps an academic authoritative attempt. It consists of 608 entries by 177 collaborators. Most of the entries are celebrated figures in Southeast Asia. This 1551-page publication appears in two volumes are meticulously edited by its editorial board. It is one of the largest academic research project carried out by the Chinese Heritage Centre of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. 

Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary

Biographical dictionary of the Chinese in Malaysia was published in 1997 by the Pelanduk Publications. This 211-page dictionary consists of prominent Malaysian Chinese. Its entries coverage and selection are considered sufficient to represent the Malaysian Chinese in terms of social, economics and politics. However, the source of references for each entry is not enough to support the accuracy of the information. It is also found that the contents are largely extracted from the current available sources without cross-referencing on its reliability.    

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