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The Harvard Universal Classics, originally known as Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf, is a 51-volume anthology of classic works from world literature, compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot and first published in 1909.

Eliot had stated in speeches that the elements of a liberal education could be obtained by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf. (Originally he had said a three-foot shelf.) The publisher P. F. Collier and Son saw an opportunity and challenged Eliot to make good on this statement by selecting an appropriate collection of works, and the Harvard Classics was the result.

Eliot worked for one year with William A. Neilson, a professor of English; Eliot determined the works to be included and Neilson selected the specific editions and wrote introductory notes. Each volume had 400-450 pages, and the included texts are "so far as possible, entire works or complete segments of the world's written legacies." The collection was widely advertised by Collier and Son, in Collier's and elsewhere, with great success.

Eight years later Eliot added a further 20 volumes as a sub-collection titled 'The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction', offering some of the greatest novels and short stories of world literature. The exhaustive anthology of the 'The Harvard Classics' comprises every major literary figure, philosopher, religion, folklore and historical subject up to the twentieth century.

The Harvard Classics:
. 1: Franklin, Woolman & Penn
2: Plato, Epictetus & Marcus Aurelius
3: Bacon, Milton, Browne
4: John Milton
5: R. W. Emerson
6: Robert Burns
7: St Augustine & Thomas á Kempis
8: Nine Greek Dramas
9: Cicero and Pliny
10: The Wealth of Nations
11: The Origin of Species
12: Plutarchs
13: Æneid
14: Don Quixote
15: Bunyan & Walton
16: 1001 Nights
17: Folklore & Fable
18: Modern English Drama
19: Goethe & Marlowe
20: The Divine Comedy
21: I Promessi Sposi
22: The Odyssey
23: Two Years Before the Mast
24: Edmund Burke
25: J. S. Mill & T. Carlyle
26: Continental Drama
27 & 28: English & American Essays
29: The Voyage of the Beagle
30: Scientific Papers
31: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
32: Literary and Philosophical Essays
33: Voyages & Travels
34: French & English Philosophers
35: Chronicle and Romance
36: Machiavelli, Roper, More, Luther
37: Locke, Berkeley, Hume
38: Harvey, Jenner, Lister, Pasteur
39: Prologues
40-42: English Poetry
43: American Historical Documents
44 & 45: Sacred Writings
46 & 47: Elizabethan Drama
48: Blaise Pascal
49: Saga
50: Reader's Guide
51: Lectures
The Shelf of Fiction:
1 & 2: The History of Tom Jones
3: A Sentimental Journey & Pride and Prejudice
4: Guy Mannering
5 & 6: Vanity Fair
7 & 8: David Copperfield
9: The Mill on the Floss
10: Irving, Poe, Harte, Twain, Hale
11: The Portrait of a Lady
12: Notre Dame de Paris
13: Balzac, Sand, de Musset, Daudet, de Maupassant
14 & 15: Goethe, Keller, Storm, Fontane
16-19: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev
20: Valera, Bjørnson, Kielland

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