The Harvard Classics (HC)

Note: Links have been added to each entry with a Listing. This label will show you the Listings of any author included in this list.

$985?! I bought mine for FIVE BUCKS!


Long before The Great Books of the Western World was created in Chicago, a similar enterprise was initiated by Harvard University under then-President Charles W. Eliot (hence the set's nickname, "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf"). But it's better known as The Harvard Classics, and it was quite a publishing phenomenon for its time, selling an amazing 350,000 sets in the 20 years after it was first published in 1909. That would be nearly nine million sets compared to today's population!

No wonder it's easy to pick up a set cheaply. I got mine for $5.00 at a yard sale back in the '70s; they're close to a thousand today, but still a deal (?).

But wait! You can get them cheaper still, as the entire set is available FREE online.

Frankly, as with the "Shelf of Fiction" elsewhere on this site, some of the choices are more than a little out-of-date--even for classics. I Promessi Sposi? Oliver Wendell Holmes on The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever? Really?

But overall, a great resource, plus it has lots of introductions, footnotes, and other help. (Don't miss the "Lectures" in Volume 51!)

Volume I
Volume II
Volume III
Volume IV
Volume V
Volume VI
Volume VII
Volume VIII
Volume IX
Volume X
Volume XI
Volume XII
Volume XIII
Volume XIV
Volume XV
Volume XVI
Volume XVII
Volume XVIII
Volume XIX
Volume XX
Volume XXI
Volume XXII
Volume XXIII
Volume XXIV
  • Edmund Burke: On Taste; On the Sublime and Beautiful; Reflections on the French Revolution; A Letter to a Noble Lord
Volume XXV
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Volume XXVI
Volume XXVII
  • Various Authors: English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay
(Sir Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, Abraham Cowley, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Johnson, David Hume, Sydney Smith, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, Thomas De Quincey, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Babington Macaulay)
  • Various Authors: Essays: English and American
(William Makepeace Thackeray, John Henry Newman, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, Walter Bagehot, Thomas Henry Huxley, Edward Augustus Freeman, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Ellery Channing, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, James Russell Lowell)
Volume XXIX
Volume XXX
  • Various Authors: Scientific Papers
(Michael Faraday, Hermann von Helmholtz, Lord Kelvin, Simon Newcomb, Sir Archibald Geikie)
Volume XXXI
Volume XXXII
  • Various Authors: Literary and Philosophical Essays
(Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Ernest Renan, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, J. C. Friedrich von Schiller, Immanuel Kant, Giuseppe Mazzini)
  • Various Authors: Voyages and Travels: Ancient and Modern
(Herodotus, Tacitus, Sir Francis Drake, Francis Pretty, Captain Walter Bigges, Edward Haies, Sir Walter Raleigh)
Volume XXXIV
Volume XXXV
Volume XXXVI
  • John Locke: Some Thoughts Concerning Education
  • George Berkeley: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists
  • David Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Volume XXXIX
  • Various Authors: Prefaces and Prologues
(William Caxton, John Calvin, Nicolaus Copernicus, John Knox, Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, Henrie Condell and Iohn Heminge, Sir Isaac Newton, John Dryden, Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, J. W. von Goethe, William Wordsworth, Victor Hugo, Walt Whitman, Hippolyte Adolphe Taine)
Volume XL
  • Various Authors: English Poetry I: Chaucer to Gray
(Selected*: Alexander Pope, Andrew Marvell, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Geoffrey Chaucer, George Herbert, Isaac Watts, John Donne, John Dryden, John Fletcher, John Gay, John Webster, Joseph Addison, Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, Robert Southwell, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Campion, Thomas Gray, Thomas Nashe, William Shakespeare)
Volume XLI
  • Various Authors: English Poetry II: Collins to Fitzgerald
(Selected*: Charles Lamb, Edward Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry Fielding, John Keats, George Gordon, Lord Byron, Oliver Goldsmith, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Thomas Hood, Walter Savage Landor, William Blake, William Collins, William Cowper, William Wordsworth)
Volume XLII
  • Various Authors: English Poetry III: Tennyson to Whitman
(Selected*: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Arthur Hugh Clough, Bret Harte, Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley, Christina Georgina Rossetti, Coventry Patmore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Bronte, George MacDonald, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, John Greenleaf Whittier, Matthew Arnold, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Browning, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman, William Cullen Bryant, William Makepeace Thackeray, William Morris)
*Note: Because each of the above three volumes contains dozens of poets, I have selected these from the long lists. I may have missed one here and there. Poets are listed here alphabetically by first name; in the volumes they are more-or-less chronological.

Volume XLIII
  • Various Authors: American Historical Documents: 1000–1904 (There are nearly 50 entries, not all of them with identified authors. Of special note are Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. The entire list can be seen here.)
Volume XLIV
Volume XLV
Volume XLVI
Volume XLVII
Volume XLIX
[Volume L contains an Introduction, Reader's Guide, and Indexes]

Volume LI
  • Various Authors: Lectures on the Harvard Classics (As nearly as I can tell, the only author on the guide from this list is Frederick Jackson Turner. You can see the others here.)
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