Harvard Classics

first publication date:  1909
original title:  The Harvard Classics
original language:  English

The Harvard Classics, originally marketed as Dr. Eliot's Five-Foot Shelf of Books, is a 50-volume series of classic works of world literature, important speeches, and historical documents compiled and edited by Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot. Eliot believed that a careful reading of the series and following the eleven reading plans included in Volume 50 would offer a reader, in the comfort of the home, the benefits of a liberal education, entertainment and counsel of history's greatest creative minds. The initial success of The Harvard Classics was due, in part, to the branding offered by Eliot and Harvard University. Buyers of these sets were apparently attracted to Eliot's claims. The General Index contains upwards of 76,000 subject references.The first 25 volumes were published in 1909 followed by the next 25 volumes in 1910. The collection was enhanced when the Lectures on The Harvard Classics was added in 1914 and Fifteen Minutes a Day - The Reading Guide in 1916. The Lectures on The Harvard Classics was edited by Willam A. Neilson, who had assisted Eliot in the selection and design of the works in Volumes 1–49. Neilson also wrote the introductions and notes for the selections in Volumes 1–49. The Harvard Classics is often described as a "51 volume" set, however, P.F. Collier & Son consistently marketed the Harvard Classics as 50 volumes plus Lectures and a Daily Reading Guide. Both The Harvard Classics and The Five-Foot Shelf of Books are registered trademarks of P.F. Collier & Son for a series of books used since 1909.Collier advertised The Harvard Classics in U.S. magazines including Collier's and McClure's, offering to send a pamphlet to prospective buyers. The pamphlet, entitled Fifteen Minutes a Day - A Reading Plan, is a 64-page booklet that describes the benefits of reading, gives the background on the book series, and includes many statements by Eliot about why he undertook the project. In the pamphlet, Eliot states: My aim was not to select the best fifty, or best hundred, books in the world, but to give, in twenty-three thousand pages or thereabouts, a picture of the progress of the human race within historical times, so far as that progress can be depicted in books. The purpose of The Harvard Classics is, therefore, one different from that of collections in which the editor's aim has been to select a number of best books; it is nothing less than the purpose to present so ample and characteristic a record of the stream of the world's thought that the observant reader's mind shall be enriched, refined and fertilized. Within the limits of fifty volumes, containing about twenty-three thousand pages, my task was to provide the means of obtaining such knowledge of ancient and modern literature as seemed essential to the twentieth-century idea of a cultivated man. The best acquisition of a cultivated man is a liberal frame of mind or way of thinking; but there must be added to that possession acquaintance with the prodigious store of recorded discoveries, experiences, and reflections which humanity in its intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization has acquired and laid up. Source: Wikipedia (en)

Series - wd:Q912426

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