Updating the "Authors" section for World Biographers' Day

Biographers' Day is a professional holiday for writers, historians and museum staff. The profession of biographer appeared many centuries ago. The ancient Greek writer and philosopher Plutarch (Latin: Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus; lived between 45 and 50 years – between 119 and 125) is considered its first renowned representative.

"Parallel Lives” the major and best-known work of Plutarch, includes 23 carefully paired biographies of 46 prominent Greek and Roman politicians and is a valuable historical source. The lives are arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. Each pair consisting of one Greek and one Roman of similar destiny, such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, or Demosthenes and Cicero. It is a work of considerable importance, not only as a source of information about the individuals described, but also about the times in which they lived.

Originating in the Antiquity, the genre of biography was constantly developing and improving, "adapting" to the requirements of each era. Thanks to its flexibility, the genre has managed not only to survive, but also to develop. At present, it is customary to distinguish between novelized biographies, scientific, popular and academic biographies – depending on the author's objectives.

The word biography itself comes from two ancient Greek words - βίος - life + γράφω - writing. In other words, a biography is a depicturement of a person’s created by another person or several people. In most cases, a biography becomes the very first source of information we want to get about a person. Thanks to the meticulous and tireless work of biographers even the most seemingly insignificant information about the lives of prominent people of this or that era, about the manners and customs of this era has reached our days.

It is on May 16, that the knowledgeable and curious people celebrate the anniversary of the first meeting between Samuel Johnson* (1709-1784) and his biographer James Boswell (1740-1795). The men met in a London bookshop in 1763, and their meeting and an established friendship between them resulted in “The Life of Samuel Johnson” in two volumes, published in 1791.

Reading biographies of artists, poets and writers, musicians and singers, other representatives of art helps to understand their works, if not completely, at least a little deeper. It is this quality that distinguishes the genre of biographies of creative people among others. Can attention to the details of the artist's life, his biography, give something new for understanding the artist's work? Indeed, when a musical or pictorial work is created, it acquires an objective existence; all of its most important meanings can be found in itself. But why do certain images prevail or vary in the works of a painter or a sculptor? How can we explain unexpected changes in style, long intervals of creativity, how did this author combine his vocation and abilities? The answer can be found in the details of the artist's life and character traits, his intellectual evolution, his social environment and forms of leisure.

At the same time, the imagination of a biography writer must necessarily be strictly disciplined. Not every writer can become a good biographer. It is not enough just only to wield a pen; you need to be a historian, a local history expert, a psychologist, an analyst. In order to write a reliable biography, it is simply necessary to spend months, and sometimes years, in archives and libraries, to spend sleepless nights analysing and systematising the collected data, turning it into truthful and logical novelized material.

Today is the professional holiday of those people whom we have to thank for the opportunity to learn the story of the life and work of this or that author. People who have chosen for themselves a challenging profession, which constantly requires answers to the questions: what are the limits of permissible immersion in the life of another person, what is a scientific biography and what are its differences from a novelized biography? And the answer to the most difficult question – how are a person's biography and creativity related?

World Biographers' Day is the day when the biographies of a famous composer or writer are worth rereading; or proper time to acquaint with the life of a talented jeweller or inventor-innovator in the updated "Authors" section of the museum website.

Or maybe now is exactly the right time to recollect the details of your own life and start compiling an autobiography....

* The Englishman Samuel Johnson, or Dr Johnson, as he was more commonly known, was a prominent critic, lexicographer and poet of the second half of the 18th century. His most renown work was the “Dictionary of the English Language”, which Johnson worked on for nine years.

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