The Austrian Biographical Encyclopaedia continues a tradition of biographical entries that goes back to Constantin von Wurzbach and his 60-volume work, ‘Biographical Encyclopaedia of the Austrian Empire’ (published in 1856–1891). During the First World War, preliminary work already began on a sequel to Wurzbach’s encyclopaedia orientated towards international works of this kind and which was published in part in the subsequently continued series, 'New Austrian Biography'. Moreover, the Amalthea publishing house collected rich biographical data which was assumed by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1946 with the goal of revising and publishing it in the form of a biographical encyclopaedia.
For this purpose, the 'Commission for the Development of an Austrian Biographical Encyclopaedia’ was founded in the same year and an editorial team was appointed. This commission was converted into the institute 'Austrian Biographical Encyclopaedia and Biographical Documentation’ at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on 1 January 1994. On 1 January 2013, the 'Austrian Biographical Encyclopaedia’ (ÖBL) was incorporated into the newly founded Institute of Modern and Contemporary History and on 1 January 2020 it became part of the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage.
The Austrian Biographical Encyclopaedia is the only encyclopaedic work in Europe to record the life courses and career paths of prominent personalities in the entire territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as well as in the First and Second Republics. In selecting the entries, we are committed to taking individuals into account who do not hold a prominent place in public consciousness.
The printed edition currently comprises 73 instalments. The most recent was published in December 2022 and ranges from 'Zeman Antonín' to 'Zycha Marianne Emilie'. Almost 20.000 biographies have been published to date. An overview of the published volumes is available here. With the publishing of volume 16 the print edition is now complete.
The construction of an online edition began in 2004. Since July 2009, this open access version has been accessible on the Internet. In addition to full text search, it also offers in-depth search options as well as supplementary image material and further links. The online edition of the ÖBL will be continued after the end of the print edition.
The project ‘Mapping Historical Networks: building the new Austrian Prosopographical | Biographical Information System (APIS)’ was launched on 15 April 2015. The project is funded by the Austrian National Foundation and was approved in the framework of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ call for projects under the title, ‘Digital Humanities: long-term projects dealing with cultural heritage’. The project was completed on 31 March 2020 and at the same time forms the technical starting point for the ÖBL 2000 project, which will be carried out following the print edition.