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By P. F. Collier & Son / 1909–1917/
Chosen by former Harvard president Charles William Eliot to recreate a liberal education, the Harvard Classics Collection contains the essential works of the Western classical tradition. This collection includes works by Homer, Dante, Luther, Milton, Shakespeare, Darwin, and more—51 volumes available on your mobile device. The bundle comprises the 51 Harvard Classics volumes from:
Eliot gathered classic works he felt represented “the progress of man . . . from the earliest historical times to the close of the nineteenth century.” This collection is not meant to resemble a museum display of the world’s best books, but rather a portable university. The volumes approximate courses of study in history, philosophy, literature, and science, substituting primary sources for outdated textbooks.
From Augustine’s Confessions to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, these diverse works share a common theme: progress. The shape of this collection was influenced by Eliot’s great optimism in “the upward tendency of the human race,” and it functions as a cross section of the literary forces which effectively shaped our society. Universally regarded as one of the most comprehensive and best-researched anthologies of all time, this collection covers every major literary figure, philosopher, religion, and historical subject from antiquity through the nineteenth century. The Harvard Classics Collection is a must-have library for lovers of the classics.
The Harvard Classics provided the general reader with a great storehouse of standard works in all the main departments of intellectual activity. To this storehouse the Lectures now open the door. Through the Lectures the student is introduced to a vast range of topics, under the guidance of distinguished professors. The Five-Foot Shelf, with its introductions, notes, guides to reading, and exhaustive indexes, may claim to constitute a reading course unparalleled in comprehensiveness and authority.
—William Allan Nelson, editor-in-chief, Webster’s New International Dictionary, 1934
The Lecture Series on the contents of The Harvard Classics ought to do much to open that collection of literary materials to many ambitious young men and women whose education was cut short by the necessity of contributing in early life to the family earnings, or of supporting themselves . . . It will certainly promote the accomplishment of the educational object I had in mind when I made the collection.
—Charles W. Eliot, president, Harvard University, 1869
Charles Eliot (1834–1926) was selected as Harvard’s president in 1869 and served the longest term as president in the university’s history. He graduated from Harvard in 1853 and was appointed Tutor in Mathematics there in the fall of 1854. In 1858 he was promoted to Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry, but the coveted appointment to the Rumford Professorship of Chemistry eluded him. Eliot left Harvard in 1863 and, instead of going into business or finding another teaching position, traveled in Europe for nearly two years, studying the educational systems of the Old World. He took an interest in every aspect of institutional operation, from curriculum and methods of instruction through physical arrangements and custodial services. But his particular concern was with the relation between education and economic growth. During this time abroad, Eliot was offered and declined a superintendent position at the Merrimack Company, one of the largest textile mills in the United States.
Returning home in 1865, Eliot accepted an appointment as Professor of Analytical Chemistry at the newly-founded Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He published his ideas about reforming American higher education in a compelling two-part article in The Atlantic Monthly, the nation’s leading journal of opinion. Harvard had found itself in a crisis of short-term presidents and languishing curriculum, so it turned to Charles W. Eliot. Under his leadership, Harvard began to expand the range of courses offered, permitting undergraduates with unrestricted choice in selecting their courses of study. This enabled them to discover their "natural bents" and pursue them into specialized studies. The university soon became a center for advanced scientific and technological research. During his forty year presidency, the university extended its facilities with laboratories, libraries, classrooms, and athletic facilities. Eliot was able to attract the support of major donors from among the nation’s growing plutocracy, making it the wealthiest private university in the world.