Become Self-Educated

In the early 1900’s, Harvard President Charles W. Eliot stated that a liberal education could be obtained by spending fifteen minutes a day reading from a collection of books that would fit on a five-foot bookshelf. Publisher P.F. Collier and Son took Eliot at his word, and asked him to compile the volumes of literature necessary to create a five-foot liberal education library. Eliot did, and the result was the wonderful Harvard Classics.

First published in 1909, the Harvard Classics are a fifty-one volume set. Each book is approximately 400 to 450 pages, and texts, such as The Odyssey by Homer or His Autobiography by Ben Franklin, are reprinted in their entirety.

P.F. Collier and Son sold over 350,000 sets in the twenty years that they were available. Says East Side owner, Diane Doonan, “The Harvard Classics were a new concept and became very popular. Everyone wanted to be self-educated.”

Along the same lines of the Harvard Classics, we have volumes of Will and Ariel Durant’s eleven-book series The Story of Civilization. The first volume, Our Oriental Heritage, was published in 1935. The remaining volumes were penned over a span of forty years. Although The Story of Civilization was intended to be an overview of Western history, the series ends with The Age of Napoleon due to the death of the Durants.

Both the Harvard Classics volumes and The Story of Civilization series are much sought after these days, and are often used for homeschool curriculum. We have individual volumes of Harvard Classics available for around $6.00 each. They are located along the top of the shelves in our Literature section. Please ask for assistance. We also have a complete set of Harvard Classics that will be sold as a whole. If interested, please speak with one of our staff.  We have many of the books in The Story of Civilization series available as well, and these are located on top of the Psychology section in the Non-Fiction room.

Come browse these classical series and enhance your reading resume today.

2 thoughts on “Become Self-Educated

  1. It is so heartening for me to see “self-education” encouraged in Bishop, as well as the reference to homeschooling. Thank you!

  2. One of my first and favorite estate sale purchases, when I was about 10, was the 985 page volume High School Self Taught, revised and published in 1939. With four years of high school “drudgery” looming, it seemed so promising to read this one book and cover all my essentials. Think of what other things I could do besides sit in class for four years! The introduction clearly lays out a study plan, even if one is limited to 30 minutes per day, heck, I could read 900 pages in a week, tops, I’d be finished! Needless to say, I got bogged down before even getting to French or the 29 pages of English Literature, and had to sit through four years of class anyway. That book has remained on my shelf ever since though, just in case. Good thing I didn’t find the Harvard Classics then, I’d have planned to skip college too!

    Some of my dearest role models are remarkable, self educated individuals. I have a hard time NOT stocking the store with these wonderful collections when I think of people like Robert Renfro, who took on a subject, collected and read the books, made notes, and truly learned the material. So much to learn.

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