The Harvard Classics are also known as Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf. Dr. Charles W. Eliot was the president of Harvard University. He insisted on taking the challenge of compiling classic works of literature that would fit into a five foot shelf, and provide the reader with a good liberal education. According to him, by reading only 15 minutes a day this would be possible. That is how The Harvard Classics came to be. The anthology consists of 51 volumes of classic literature from around the world, known at that time.
If you didn’t have any other way of obtaining an education, this was a good and affordable way of achieving one. I think it was a great idea; still is. Many of these volumes can be found today at very reasonable prices. Websites such as eBay are a good way of finding them individually or as a collection, many times missing a few volumes, but you can always add the missing ones later on. This was one thing I set out to do many years ago, and I was lucky to obtain a complete collection, although it had four volumes that were added later on. These are the three red volumes and the blue volume you see in the picture. I got it for a song and dance, as the adage says.
One of the reasons I am writing this post is because many times people think that a good education can only be obtained by attending a college or university, and for many people, this is financially difficult or impossible, depending on the circumstances. Yes, a degree from college is needed to work on a chosen field, but we are talking here about a liberal education, something that is very valuable. For example, if a parent is unable to provide a good education for her/his children, this would still be a viable way of achieving it. I admit that times have changed, and many times, kids are not interested in classic works of literature. It is not valued as much today as it was then. Our society has become more technological, and sometimes, money is valued more than education. Video games, computers, smart TV’s and social media have taken priority in our society, but Dr. Eliot’s 15 minutes a day suggestion is still a great way to become educated. If you don’t have 15 minutes, 10 minutes of reading will be beneficial as well. Many of these works can be found online in electronic format, to be downloaded for free, if you prefer e-reading.
I hope that this post helps anyone who feels that education is far beyond reach. Whether you have a college degree or not, The Harvard Classics will enrich your life.