During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. The publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to assemble the right collection of works. The result was a 51-volume series published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf. Later it would simply be called The Harvard Classics.
You can still buy an old set off of eBay for $399. But, just as easily, you can head to the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg, which have centralized links to every text included in The Harvard Classics (Wealth of Nations, Origin of Species, Plutarch’s Lives, the list goes on). Please note that the previous two links won’t give you access to the actual annotated Harvard Classics texts edited by Eliot himself. But if you want just that, you can always click here and get digital scans of the true Harvard Classics. Please note that the first two volumes appear at the bottom of the page. And, in case you want to deepen your liberal education yet further, don’t forget to check out our collection Free Online Courses — 750 in total, all from top universities. Also spend some time with our collections of 450 Free eBooks and 550 Free Audio Books.