A collective venture of Czech and Slovak authors, the present title is a comprehensive biographical dictionary comprising some 450 biograms and summaries about individual scholars, researchers and educationists, as well as professional and non-professional specialists in the Orient, Africa and Latin America, characterizing their insights and discoveries, and enumerating their major scholarly achievements, results of years of academic endeavours, pedagogical work, artistic creativity, cultural and popularizing activities calculated to perpetuate the glorious heritage of countries of their interest, to project their true-to-life picture before the home public, to promote mutual regard and understanding. Added are bibliographic lists giving a representative selection of scholarly monographs, textbooks, teaching aids, encyclopaedic and lexicographic tools, editions of texts, catalogues, important translations, as well as significant "minor studies", research papers, articles, analyses, essays, travel notes and critiques published in journals and miscellanies both at home and abroad.
The dictionary does not make any claim to exhaustiveness, and, in some cases, the editors, bowing to the wishes of some scholars, even agreed to exclude their summaries, no matter how painful such omissions may have proved to be. Wherever possible, priority was given to autobiograms penned by the personalities concerned, who were deemed best qualified to assess their own life's work and achievements. Utmost restraint was exercised in editing such entries (signed by the initial A) in order to preserve their authors' way of self-reflection.
The bio-bibliographical part is prefaced by a comprehensive introductory study, tracing the chequered history of Asian, African and Ibero-American studies in the Czech lands from the age of National Renaissance through the totalitarian periods up to the present, assessing the contribution to the knowledge of Asia, Africa, and Latin America made by Czech and Slovak missionaries, travellers, writers, creative artists, diplomats, politologists, economists and other students of the Orient, listing the various topics and subjects taught and researched in the institutions of higher learning, museums and art galleries, and presenting a critical overview of the development of individual disciplines, branches and subjects of study. The main body of the dictionary is supplemented by numerous appendices listing various research centres, series of publications, journals and library collections in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The book is being published to mark the 650th anniversary of Charles University, alma mater of most Czech and Slovak Orientalists, Africanists and Americanists, and is designed to serve as a modest tribute to the pioneers, who broke ground for the present and future generations, as well as a reliable guide to the lives and works of their pupils, disciples and followers.