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Waidner-Spahr Library

German: Reference Sources

This guide highlights the most important library resources for German Studies at Dickinson.

Reference Sources

Reference sources are often an excellent place to begin your research. The following are examples of important encyclopedias, dictionaries, and literary/cultural reference sources relevant to German studies. Some are in print format only, and others are online. You can find more print reference books by browsing the reference stacks, or by searching the catalog and limiting the location to Reference Stacks. You can find more online sources by searching the catalog for the subject heading Electronic reference sources, and by searching our library's database list using the keyword "reference."


Biography and Bio-Bibliography

Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie

The most exhaustive historical national biography of prominent German persons from antiquity through the 19th century. Not limited to literary figures, the ADB includes many entries not  found in other sources. This is the digitized version of the 56 vol. set published in Leipzig by Duncker & Humblot, 1875-1912. It includes a search box, index of names, and the full text.

Frederiksen, Elke P., and Elizabeth G. Ametsbichler, eds. Women Writers in German-Speaking Countries: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. (561 p.)   Reference PT167 .W65 1998

Thorough coverage of 54 women writers from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Each article includes a biography, major themes in the author's works, a survey of criticism, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. 

Grimm, Gunter E., and Frank Rainer Max, eds. Deutsche Dichter: Leben und Werk deutschsprachiger Autoren vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1993. (886 p.) Reference PT155 .D476 1993

Substantial coverage of more than 150 authors, arranged chronologically instead of alphabetically, and featuring portraits (illustrations or photographs) of many of the authors. 

Heuer, Renate, ed. Lexikon deutsch-jüdischer Autoren. München: Saur, 1992-. Reference PT169 .L49 (20 vols.)

Specifically for research on German-Jewish authors, each entry includes a biographical outline and lists of works by and about the author.

Jens, Walter, ed. Kindlers neues Literatur Lexikon. 22 vols. München: Kindler, 1988-1998. Reference PN41 .K53 1998 

An encyclopedia of world literature from the beginnings to the present. Includes plot summaries of more than 20,000 works, as well as evaluations, and primary and secondary bibliographies (Ausgaben and Literatur).

Keith-Smith, Brian, ed. An Encyclopedia of German Women Writers, 1900-1933: Biographies and Bibliographies with Exemplary Readings. 10 vols. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997- Reference PT1141 .L495 1997

For each author, this specialized set features a biography in English (two to three pages in length), a portrait, a works list, brief bibliography, and selected exemplary texts of the author's works in German.

KLG - Kritisches Lexikon zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur

A German literature database covering about 600 authors writing in German who began publishing after 1945. Each entry contains a biographical sketch, a detailed critical essay, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Note: all the information is in German only.

Konzett, Matthias, ed. Encyclopedia of German Literature. 2 vols. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000. (1136 p.) 

A highly selective encyclopedia written by scholars in English-speaking countries, this set presents "a transnational perspective, allowing a critical look at German literature and culture from the outside." Bibliographical references are to works in English and German. "A substantial contribution to English encyclopedias of German literature, this authoritative two- volume set features in-depth treatment of the authors, works, topics, and influences of German literary studies. Arranged in A-to-Z format, the articles are both definitive and critical."--"Outstanding Reference Sources," American Libraries, May 2001.

Lutz, Bernd, and Benedikt Jessing, eds. Metzler Autoren Lexikon: Deutschsprachige Dichter und Schriftstller vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2004. (848 p.) Reference PT155 .M48 2004

Includes biographical essentials and very brief bibliographies of 550 German authors from the middle ages to the present, with an emphasis on the last three centuries. Arranged alphabetically. 

Wilpert, Gero von, ed. Lexikon der Weltliteratur: biographisch-bibliographisches Handwörterbuch nach Autoren und anonymen Werken: Deutsche Autoren A-Z. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Kroener, 2004. (698 p.)  Reference PT155 .W48 2004

Mostly very brief biographical entries for 3,000 significant authors. Includes biographical facts and dates, a description placing the author in literary context, a summary assessment of the author's works, and a concise works list and bibliography of secondary sources.


​BDSL (Bibliographie der Deutschen Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft) [Print version] Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1957-2006. Reference PT85 .B5

(Bd. 9-24 cover the years 1945-1984) Online version covers 1985 to the present. 

The most important and comprehensive international bibliography of published works on German language, literature, and cultural studies. Each annual volume contains about 15,000 entries, and lists books, journal articles, and reviews. The database itself is in German, but it indexes publications in numerous languages. This source is an index only, not a full-text database; you will need to use our journal locator and interlibrary loan to obtain the full-text of the materials listed.

Cultural and literary reference books

Sandford, John, ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary German Culture. New York: Routledge, 1999.(696 p.) Reference DD290.26 .E53 1999

Written by scholars primarily in Great Britain and the United States, this book presents a very broad view of German culture since 1945. Included are more than 1,000 thematic and biographical entries. Bibliographical references are largely to English language sources. 

Watanabe-O'Kelly, Helen, ed. The Cambridge History of German Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. (613 p.) Reference PT91 .C36 1997

This is not an alphabetical source for finding quick facts; its lengthy chapters require sustained reading. Nine scholars describe the major periods of German literature from the early Middle Ages to the reunification of Germany in 1990.

General encyclopedias and dictionaries

Brockhaus Enzyklopädie: in vierundzwanzig Bänden. Mannheim: F.A. Brockhaus, c1986-1996.  Reference AE27 .B922 1986 (25 v.)

The preeminent general knowledge encyclopedia in the German language.

Dudenredaktion (Bibliographisches Institut). Oxford-Duden German dictionary : German-English, English-German. 3rd ed. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.  Reference PF3640 .O94 2005

Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Deutsches Wörterbuch. Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1962-70.  Reference PF3625 .G7 (32 v.)

"... the first German dictionary conceived on scientific lines; initiated by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The dictionary was designed to give the etymology and history, illustrated by quotations, of all the words in the (New) High German literary language from the time of Martin Luther (c. 1500) to that of J.W. von Goethe (d. 1832), as well as significant dialectical words and forms."--Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

Paul, Hermann. Deutsches Wörterbuch: Bedeutungsgeschichte und Aufbau unseres Wortschatzes. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2002. (1243 p.)  Reference PF3625 .P328 2002

At the intermediate and advanced level, using a German language only (not German-English) dictionary is essential to learning how to think in the language.

Terrell, Peter. Collins German-English, English-German Dictionary: Unabridged. New York: Collins, 2004. (2108 p.)  Reference F3640 .C68 2004

An unabridged German-English dictionary is indispensable for learning German. A pocket dictionary is not sufficient, especially given the structure and complexity of German vocabulary.

Wahrig, Gerhard. Deutsches Wörterbuch: mit einem Lexikon der Deutschen Sprachlehre. 6., neu bearbeitete Auflage. Gutersloh : Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag, 1997.  Reference PF3625 .W2 1997