Charles Eliot was the President of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909. He often used to cite that if a person spent 15 minutes-a-day aside for reading, one could get a liberal education (like that of Harvard) for free. He cited that such books would sit comfortably on a five-foot shelf.
The challenge was brought upon the publisher Peter Fenelon Collier & Son (famously known as P.F. Collier & Son), who saw an opportunity and challenged Mr. Eliot to it.
Mr. Eliot worked for one year with a gentleman named William A. Neilson, a professor of English and hence the 51 Volume Harvard Classics were born.
Whilst the books are still available in their hardback form, they are now also available for free, thanks to the expired copyright laws and the wonderful work of having these books digitised (see below for links).
The entire series is as below:
- Vol. 1 Benjamin Franklin, John Woolman, William Penn
- Vol. 2 Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius
- Vol. 3 Bacon, Milton’s Prose, Thomas Browne
- Vol. 4 Milton, Complete Poems in English
- Vol. 5 Emerson, Essays and English Traits
- Vol. 6 Robert Burns, Poems and Songs
- Vol. 7 The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Imitation of Christ
- Vol. 8 Nine Greek Dramas
- Vol. 9 Letters and Treatises of Cicero and Pliny
- Vol. 10 Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
- Vol. 11 Charles Darwin, Origin of the Species
- Vol. 12 Plutarch’s Lives
- Vol. 13 Virgil, AEneid
- Vol. 14 Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I
- Vol. 15 Pilgrim’s Progress, Donne and Herbert, Walton
- Vol. 16 The Thousand and One Nights
- Vol. 17 Folk-Lore and Fable: Aesop, Grimm, Andersen
- Vol. 18 Modern English Drama
- Vol. 19 Faust, Egmont, etc., Goethe, Doctor Faustus, Marlowe
- Vol. 20 Dante, The Divine Comedy
- Vol. 21 Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi
- Vol. 22 Homer, The Odyssey
- Vol. 23 Dana, Two Years Before the Mast
- Vol. 24 Burke, On the Sublime, French Revolution, etc.
- Vol. 25 J. S. Mill and Thomas Carlyle
- Vol. 26 Continental Drama
- Vol. 27 English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay
- Vol. 28 Essays, English and American
- Vol. 29 Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle
- Vol. 30 Scientific Papers: Faraday, Helmholtz, Kelvin, Newcomb, etc.
- Vol. 31 Cellini, Autobiography
- Vol. 32 Montaigne, Sainte-Beuve, Renan, etc.
- Vol. 33 Voyages and Travel
- Vol. 34 Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes
- Vol. 35 Froissart, Malory, Holinshed
- Vol. 36 Machiavelli, More, Luther
- Vol. 37 Locke, Berkeley, Hume
- Vol. 38 Scientific Papers: Harvey, Jenner, Lister, Pasteur
- Vol. 39 Famous Prefaces
- Vol. 40 English Poetry I
- Vol. 41 English Poetry II
- Vol. 42 English Poetry III
- Vol. 43 American Historical Documents
- Vol. 44 Sacred Writings I
- Vol. 45 Sacred Writings II
- Vol. 46 Elizabethan Drama I
- Vol. 47 Elizabethan Drama II
- Vol. 48 Blaze Pascal, Thoughts and Minor Works
- Vol. 49 Epic and Saga
- Vol. 50 Introduction, Reader’s Guide and Indexes
- Vol. 51 Lectures
Whilst P. F. Collier and Son made a lot of money in selling the series, you can still buy the original, or opt for the scanned or digitised versions for FREE from the various links below:
- The Harvard Classics / Dr. Elitor’s Five Foot Shelf (presented by the Internet Archive)
- The Hardcover Version of The Harvard Classics (Complete Set of 51 as available on Amazon.com)
- My Harvard Classics (HTML / Online Reading)
- The Harvard Classics (presented by Bartleby)
- Harvard Classics – MobileRead Version. Please also see this link.
- The Harvard Classics (presented by Project Gutenberg)
This page was last updated on February 11, 2013.