Monday, September 30, 2013

Series of the Month: The Five Foot Shelf of Classics, by Charles W. Eliot

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."  -  Charles W. Eliot, The Happy Life

Imagine you were asked to name the most enriching books in literary history: a list of books that represent the most compelling works of literature the world has to offer. It’s a pretty Herculean task, isn’t it? It’s certainly not something we’d like to try!

Thankfully, Charles W. Eliot—Harvard University president for a record forty years—did the heavy lifting and put together a 51-volume anthology of classic works that represent a history of the progress of man, his inventions, and thoughts. This collection of works, originally referred to as The Harvard Classics, is more commonly known now as “The Five Foot Shelf of Classics.”

A very wise man indeed, Eliot believed that just a few minutes a day with one of his 51 volumes would constitute a well-rounded education and allow the reader to become an informed contributor to society.

Since its publication in 1909, this remarkable series has served as a ‘home educator’ for anyone eager to improve themselves. Eliot’s collection was even featured in the memoir The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else, in which author Christopher Beha details how he turned to these great works for comfort and inspiration during a time of personal struggle. Beha’s memoir illustrates what Eliot believed about The Five Foot Shelf: that the great works of literature are still worth consulting, as a source not just of education, but of edification in every sense of the word.

The Five Foot Shelf of Classics is available in hardcover or paperback (call or email us for the full series), or for individual purchase on [Note: You will receive a 20% discount and free shipping and handling within the contiguous United States if you purchase any full series from Cosimo.]

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