The Harvard Classics

Charles William Eliot

The Harvard Classics is a 51-volume Great Books list, compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot in 1909. All volumes are now in the public domain. Free pdf versions (and other formats) are available at A complete list of volumes and links is supplied below.

Of interest is Dr. Eliot's suggestion that a superior education can be gained by reading from this list for only 15 minutes a day. Let's verify the math. At a reading speed of 1 page per minute, one would read 15 pages per day, or 105 pages per week by Eliot's plan. Assume an average length of 400 pages per volume. At the prescribed rate it would take 27 days to complete a volume. To finish the entire set would require 1,360 days, or 3.72 years. Thus, within four years - the usual time allotted for undergraduate college study, the complete series could be read: and, indeed, at only 15 minutes per day.

Now the really impressive thing is that a person who read these 51 volumes would not just be well educated, but to a level significantly better than is supplied by a standard university curriculum. One might go so far as to say that a person who read the Harvard Classics would establish him- or herself as a leader, someone possessed of rare (and today vitally necessary) intellectual skills. With a mind thus disciplined, one could easily launch a successful career or accomplish any other endeavor of one's choosing.

Some links to other Great Books lists and material for college-level self-study are supplied following the list.

Vol.  Contents
  1. Benjamin Franklin, John Woolman, William Penn
  2. Plato, Epictecus, Marcus Aurelius
  3. Bacon, Milton's Prose, Thomas Browne
  4. Milton's Complete Poems in English
  5. Emerson. Essays and English Traits
  6. Burns. Poems and Songs
  7. Saint Augustine, The Confessions. Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
  8. Nine Greek Dramas
  9. Letters and Treatises of Cicero and Pliny
  10. Adam Smith. The Wealth of Nations
  11. Darwin. The Origin of Species
  12. Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
  13. Virgil's Aeneid
  14. Cervantes. Don Quixote, Part I
  15. Bunyan. The Pilgrim's Progress. Donne and Herbert. Isaak Walton
  16. The Thousand and One Nights
  17. Folklore and Fable, Aesop, Grimm, Anderson
  18. Modern English Drama
  19. Goethe: Faust, Egmont, etc. Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
  20. Dante. The Divine Comedy
  21. Manzoni. I Promessi Sposi
  22. Homer. The Odyssey
  23. Dana. Two Years Before the Mast
  24. Burke. On the Sublime; Reflections on the Revolution in France, etc.
  25. J. S. Mill and Thomas Carlyle
  26. Continental Drama
  27. English Essays, Sidney to Macaulay
  28. English and American Essays
  29. Darwin. Voyage of the Beagle
  30. Faraday, Helmholtz, Kelvin, Newcomb, etc.
  31. Cellini. Autobiography.
  32. Montaigne, Sainte-Beuve, Renan, etc.
  33. Voyages and Travels
  34. Descartes, Voltaire, Rosseau, Hobbes
  35. Froissart, Malory, Holinshed
  36. Machiavelli, More, Luther
  37. Locke, Berkeley, Hume
  38. Harvey, Jenner, Lister, Pasteur
  39. Famous Prefaces
  40. English Poetry, 1
  41. English Poetry, 2
  42. English Poetry, 3
  43. American Historical Documents
  44. Sacred Writings, 1
  45. Sacred Writings, 2
  46. Elizabethan Drama, 1
  47. Elizabethan Drama, 2
  48. Pascal. Thoughts and Minor Works
  49. Epic and Saga
  50. Introduction, Reader's Guide, Indexes
  51. Lectures



Links to volumes of the Loeb Classical Library - by Ed Donnelly


How to Get a Superior College Education for Free - John Uebersax

Great Books

The Thomas Jefferson Great Books List

List of Great Books Lists by Robert Teeter

Center for the Study of the Great Ideas Mortimer Adler's list

Great Books of the Western World Encyclopedia Brittanica series

Great Books and Classics

Great Books Lists (Columbia, Pepperdine, and St. John's universities)

Other Educational Links of Interest

The Great Courses


ABBYY Pdf Transformer - Handy tool for converting pdf to editable MS Word documents

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Last updated: 07 May 2012 (first version)

This edition copyright 2012 John S. Uebersax - All Rights Reserved