The Harvard Classics: An Anthology of the Greatest Works of World Literature

Starting my journey across a 71-volume behemoth

The first 10 volumes of The Harvard Classics

I recently purchased a set of books too numerous for my own good.

71 volumes, to be exact. “It must have cost you a fortune!” you retort, incredulously. Thankfully–and thanks indeed be to Jeff Bezos, my supreme overlord–it only cost me $2 bucks to get the Kindle version.

Why would I voluntarily do this to myself? Don’t I already have enough on my plate? How could I possibly have time to go through all of these? And why this anthology in particular?

Also known as “Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf,” the Harvard Universal Classics are a curated collection of the classic works of literature, though certainly from the European perspective. Originally compiled in 1909 by Harvard’s longest lasting president, Charles W. Eliot, these have continued to serve as the foundational blocks of a liberal education.

Though I suspect it might take me a lifetime to get through them all even with much diligence, the joy is in the journey itself, is it not? That’s what I repeat to myself at least.

The first book in the first volume is Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. As I check each book off the list, I will write a review of it. I’ve already created a new section for my Reviews, accessible from the above menu.

Here’s a summary of what the volumes contain, copied over (and reformated) from the Wikipedia page:

Volumes 1-10

  • Vol. 1: Franklin, Woolman, Penn
  • Vol. 2. Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius
  • Vol. 3. Bacon, Milton’s Prose, Thos. Browne
  • Vol. 4. Complete Poems In English, Milton
  • Vol. 5. Essays And English Traits, Emerson
  • Vol. 6. Poems And Songs, Burns
  • Vol. 7. Confessions Of St. Augustine, Imitation Of Christ
  • Vol. 8. Nine Greek Dramas
  • Vol. 9. Letters And Treatises Of Cicero And Pliny
  • Vol. 10. Wealth Of Nations, Adam Smith

Volumes 11-20

  • Vol. 11. Origin Of Species, Darwin
  • Vol. 12. Plutarch’s Lives
  • Vol. 13. Aeneid, Virgil
  • Vol. 14. Don Quixote, Part 1, Cervantes
  • Vol. 15. Pilgrim’s Progress, Donne & Herbert, Bunyan, Walton
  • Vol. 16. The Thousand And One Nights
  • Vol. 17. Folklore And Fable, Aesop, Grimm, Andersen
  • Vol. 18. Modern English Drama
  • Vol. 19. Faust, Egmont, Etc. Doctor Faustus, Goethe, Marlowe
  • Vol. 20. The Divine Comedy, Dante

Volumes 21-30

  • Vol. 21. I Promessi Sposi, Manzoni
  • Vol. 22. The Odyssey, Homer
  • Vol. 23. Two Years Before The Mast, Dana
  • Vol. 24. On The Sublime, French Revolution, Etc., Burke
  • Vol. 25. Autobiography, Etc., Essays And Addresses, J.S. Mill, T. Carlyle
  • Vol. 26. Continental Drama
  • Vol. 27. English Essays: Sidney To Macaulay
  • Vol. 28. Essays: English And American
  • Vol. 29. Voyage Of The Beagle, Darwin
  • Vol. 30. Faraday, Helmholtz, Kelvin, Newcomb, Etc

Volumes 31-39

  • Vol. 31. Autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini
  • Vol. 32. Literary And Philosophical Essays
  • Vol. 33. Voyages And Travels
  • Vol. 34. French And English Philosophers, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes
  • Vol. 35. Chronicle And Romance, Froissart, Malory, Holinshead
  • Vol. 36. Machiavelli, More, Luther
  • Vol. 37. Locke, Berkeley, Hume
  • Vol. 38. Harvey, Jenner, Lister, Pasteur
  • Vol. 39. Prefaces And Prologues To Famous Books

Volumes 40-51

  • Vol. 40. English Poetry 1: Chaucer To Gray
  • Vol. 41. English Poetry 2: Collins To Fitzgerald
  • Vol. 42. English Poetry 3: Tennyson To Whitman
  • Vol. 43. American Historical Documents
  • Vol. 44. Sacred Writings: Volume I
  • Vol. 45. Sacred Writings: Volume II
  • Vol. 46. Elizabethan Drama 1
  • Vol. 47. Elizabethan Drama 2
  • Vol. 48. Thoughts And Minor Works, Pascal
  • Vol. 49. Epic And Saga
  • Vol. 50. Introduction, Reader’s Guide, Indexes
  • Vol. 51. Compilation of Lectures On Various Topics

In addition to the standard 51 volumes above, this Kindle copy also included the “Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction,” comprised of the following 20 volumes:

  • Vol. 1. The History of Tom Jones, part 1, by Henry Fielding
  • Vol. 2. The History of Tom Jones, part 2, by Henry Fielding
    • A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
    • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Vol. 4. Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott
  • Vol. 5. Vanity Fair, part 1, by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Vol. 6. Vanity Fair, part 2, by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Vol. 7. David Copperfield, part 1, by Charles Dickens
  • Vol. 8. David Copperfield, part 2, by Charles Dickens
  • Vol. 9. The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
    • The Scarlet Letter and Rappaccini’s Daughter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving
    • Eleonora, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Purloined Letter, by Edgar Allan Poe
    • The Luck of Roaring Camp, The Outcasts of Poker Flat, and The Idyl of Red Gulch, by Francis Bret Harte
    • Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, by Samuel L. Clemens
    • The Man Without a Country, by Edward Everett Hale
  • Vol. 11. The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
  • Vol. 12. Notre Dame de Paris, by Victor Marie Hugo
    • Old Goriot, by Honoré Balzac
    • The Devil’s Pool, by George Sand
    • The Story of a White Blackbird, by Alfred de Musset
    • The Siege of Berlin, The Last Class—The Story of a Little Alsatian, The Child Spy, The Game of Billiards, and The Bad Zouave, by Alphonse Daudet
    • Walter Schnaffs’ Adventure and Two Friends, by Guy de Maupassant
  • Vol. 14. Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
    • The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
    • The Banner of the Upright Seven, by Gottfried Keller
    • The Rider on the White Horse, by Theodor Storm
    • Trials and Tribulations, by Theodor Fontane
  • Vol. 16. Anna Karenina, part 1, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Vol. 17. Anna Karenina, part 2, and Ivan the Fool, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Vol. 18. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Vol. 19. A House of Gentlefolk and Fathers and Children, by Ivan Turgenev
    • Pepita Jimenez, by Juan Valera
    • A Happy Boy, by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
    • Skipper Worse, by Alexander L. Kielland
Vahid Dejwakh
Vahid Dejwakh
Software Engineer at Microsoft;
Co-Creator of the Fjord Framework

Vahid writes about interesting ideas at the intersection of software, system design, data, philosophy, psychology, policy, and business. He enjoys coffee and has a palate for spicy and diverse foods.

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