Discover the World's Written Legacies in just 15 minutes a day!
Even in a library full of books, many of us would not know which shelves to peruse in order to get a sense of the wonder classic literature has to offer. Wouldn't you love to enjoy a taste of everything, from poetry to drama; great works of fact and fiction; scientific discovery, mathematics, historical documents, biographies of the great figures from days past...?
By publishing the Harvard Classics 365 project, I hope to help everyone discover the satisfaction of the world's written legacies in accessible, easy to digest formats.
The Harvard 365 Project will include approximately 15 minutes of reading material for each and every day of the year based on Dr. Eliot's "reading guide" for The Harvard Classics. The material to be read ranges in form and genre daily, from a complete historical document to a selection of poetry; scenes from a play; chapters describing great voyages; essays, fables and fairy tales.
"These selections assigned for each day in the comments on the year as you will see, are introduced by subjects or the chief characters. the most pleasant manner They possible to the enable you to browse enjoyably author, the will serve to introduce Harvard Classics. you in They among the world's immortal will writings with entertainment and stimulation in endless variety." - From Dr. Eliot's Reading Guide
The Harvard Classics 365 Project will be available in major eBook formats (PDF, MOBI and ePUB), and also online via the dedicated Harvard Classics 365 website on which new readings will be published daily and can even be delivered by email (for free, of course) to anyone who wishes to subscribe. Everyone who supports this Kickstarter project will receive an advance copy of the eBook, even for the minimum threshold of £1!
In the meantime, why not download the 20 day sampler to take a peek at what we're working towards?
What is The Harvard Classics?
First published in 1909, The Harvard Classics is a 52 volume anthology which includes "so far as possible, entire works or complete segments of the world's written legacies".
Originally known as Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf, the Harvard Classics was compiled and edited by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, then president of Harvard University.Two editors from the the publisher, Collier, read a speech which Eliot (then preparing to retire) had read to an audience of working men in which he declared that a five-foot shelf of the right books could provide "a good substitute for a liberal education in youth to anyone who would read them with devotion, even if he could spare but fifteen minutes a day for reading".
Seeing this as a highly profitable potential anthology, P. F. Collier and Son challenged Eliot to make good on this statement. With the help of William Nelson, a professor of English, Eliot selected the works to be included, added notes where required and a year later the original anthology was born.
Volumes 1-49 of the anthology contain the great works of literature which Eliot suggested would comprise the five-foot shelf. Volume 50 comprises Eliot's introduction to the Harvard Classics, his original reading guides, and a comprehensive index of the works.
Volumes 51 and 52 were published a little later. The former comprises a set of 60 lectures, five for each of twelve core subjects ranging from poetry to philisophy, political science, history and religion. The latter, Volume 52, forms the central core of what the Harvard Classics 365 project is about.
Fifteen Minutes a Day - The Daily Reading Guide
Dr. Eliot placed great importance on the value of selected reading. He believed that disorganised reading was of negative value, while directed reading which led progressively through a subject was "the best possible training".
The Daily Reading Guide forms the most accessible route into the enjoyment and consumption of The Harvard Classics. Whereas complete reading of any single volume, or even one of Eliot's more comprehensive reading guides could be a daunting task, the Fifteen Minutes a Day guide dives right in to the more interesting, important and ultimately enjoyable passages and works:
"These selections assigned for each day in the comments on the year as you will see, are introduced by subjects or the chief characters. the most pleasant manner They possible to the enable you to browse enjoyably author, the will serve to introduce Harvard Classics. you in They among the world's immortal will writings with entertainment and stimulation in endless variety."
The story behind the Harvard Classics 365 Project
Earlier this year I chanced upon mention of the Harvard Classics while searching for an interesting MOOC to complete. Being acquainted with The Great Books anthology and other guides such as The Intellectual Devotional, I found the Five Foot Shelf to be a fascinating concept, particularly due to the requirement of only fifteen minutes reading a day.
Being a busy WAHM of three, I barely find time in the day to catch up with the classic literature I've always intended to read so I relished the concept of following Dr. Eliot's suggested readings for each day of the year. Since the Harvard Classics were published over a century ago, all volumes are now in the public domain and can be readily found in digital format on sites such as The Internet Archive or the Bookshelf at Project Gutenberg.
Unfortunately, I found it both difficult and time-consuming to scour through fifty different volumes in order to find the passages or pages for my daily readings. Digital scans of the original volumes proved to be a few pages, with the print all-too-often distorted when read on my (archaic) Kindle, while locating the correct page in other ebook formats proved almost impossible.
So I decided to collect all of the reading materials in a single, organised and easily accessible volume. And the more I collected, the more I began to realise that such a volume was too great to be kept only for my own use. If I were enjoying the prospect of the completed project so much, I was sure many others the world over would love this too!
A "Liberal Education" - for the 21st Century
I explained earlier that Eliot's aim for the Five-Foot Shelf was to provide the basis of a "liberal education" for anyone who would read with diligence. But what exactly does "a liberal education" mean?
To quote Dr. Eliot himself:
“Liberal education accomplishes two objects. It produces a liberal frame of mind, and it makes the studious and reflective recipient acquainted with the stream of the world’s thought and feeling, and with the infinitely varied products of the human imagination. It was my hope and belief that fifty volumes might accomplish this result for any intelligent, ambitious, and persistent reader, whether his early opportunities for education has been large or small. Such was the educational purpose with which I undertook to edit The Harvard Classics."
By publishing this volume in digital formats accompanied by the interactive elements of a daily-updated website, I hope to bring the aim of Dr. Eliot's aim bang up to date for the 21st century, as resources which are open and accessible to all. And to encourage new readers to discover these classic works of literature, I hope also to provide all of this for free.
The Structure of the Harvard Classics 365 Project
The complete Harvard Classics Project comprises two main parts:
- eBooks, in PDF, MOBI and ePub formats
- The website, which will be used to promote and distribute the eBooks; deliver daily readings; provide other resources (such as the complete 52 volume Harvard Classics anthology, in as many formats as possible), and more as yet undecided free content.
In the short term, the most important element to complete is the eBooks. I aim to have completed the main content by the last week in November 2013 so that it may be proofed, edited and formatted for all formats ready for delivery to Kickstarter supporters in the first week of December.
From the 23rd of December, I will offer the eBooks (in all formats) through the website on a "pay-what-you-want" basis with no minimum price. This means that after publication, anyone will be able to download the Harvard Classics 365 eBooks for free if they choose in order to allow anyone to enjoy the benefits of a "liberal education" through the reading of classic literature. The eBooks will have a "suggested price" which can be edited to 0.00 for a free download. Any monies made from the sale of the eBooks will go towards the continued maintenance of the website and to support future projects.
I will be using E-Junkie for the delivery (and payment) of the eBooks through the website. Having used this service for premium digital content for other websites, I am confident that it is a reliable and cost-effective service.
Eventually I would also like to distribute the eBooks through Amazon, the Apple store and other eBook distributors. I realise that not all of these distributors will allow me to offer the eBooks for free, so instead will use the suggested price for distribution through these sites.
I would truly appreciate advice for that the "suggested price" for the eBooks should be. Therefore everyone who supports this project will be invited to participate in a poll to determine what this price will be.
The Harvard Classics 365 website will be an ongoing project. I have already begun to set up the website with a basic design and some content which can be found at www.harvardclassics365.com. As the project progresses, new content and features will become available.
Providing daily updates of reading material will be the main focus of the website, with Eliot's suggested readings posted each and every day throughout 2014. This will be supported by a daily email newsletter (powered by Feedburner) so subscribers can opt to receive the reading for each day.
eBooks in detail
All formats of the eBook will have the following features:
- 365 days worth of reading material as suggested by the Fifteen Minute Reading guide, derived from the 50 core volumes of The Harvard Classics Anthology
- Eliot's original notes for each reading.
- The original introduction from Eliot's Reading Guide (Volume 52 of The Harvard Classics)
- Fully comprehensive table of contents, with links to each section and daily chapter of the book
- A section at the end to include editors notes and acknowledgement of Kickstarter supporters
The PDF will be formatted to a size suitable for most popular tablet-sized devices, while the ePub and MOBI formats will be compatible with all major eBook devices and software.
This sampler contains 20 day's worth of reading material, a total of 220 pages in PDF format, for you to download and enjoy right away. Simply click on the image above to download the sampler, or if you prefer you can read the PDF online.
Beginning with a section from Benjamin Franklin's biography in which he extols the benefits of structured and varied reading, the sampler also includes poetry by Milton and Burns; Locke's opinions on education; Faraday's Lecture on The Force of Gravitation; Pliny's Letters to an Emperor; the beginning of Shakespeare's Tempest, and much more.
Please share this sampler freely with anyone you think may be interested in following Eliot's 15 minute reading guide whether or not you choose to make a pledge. My aim is to make the pleasure of reading The Harvard Classics as widely accessible as possible, and I hope you will enjoy reading the material as much as I have been so far!
How your pledge will help the Harvard Classics 365 project
Whilst I strive to complete this project at minimal cost, there are some fees which I will need to pay and assistance required to ensure this project is completed on time and can be maintained for the foreseeable future.
The main costs involved with this project are:
- Monthly subscriptions for future distribution of the eBooks via E-Junkie
- Securing the domain name for several years
- Proofreading, editing and formatting the eBooks
- Website and eBook design
Any additional funds raised from this Kickstarter or the "pay-what-you-want" sales will contribute towards future projects based around the Harvard Classics anthology.
Rewards for Kickstarter Supporters
I want everyone supporting this Kickstarter project to benefit from the finished work, so for a minimum pledge of just £1 you will receive a PDF copy of the completed eBook before the public release.
Those contributing £5 or more will receive the eBook in all three formats (PDF, ePub and MOBI), again this will be before the general release.
Contributions of £10 and upwards will be rewarded with credit in the acknowledgements sections of the website and eBooks. Those in higher tiers will receive custom-designed thank-you cards, notecards for gifting to friends, or even a hand-made cross-stitched portrait of Charles Darwin!
Depending on the success of this project, I may be able to add additional rewards. Regardless, I will update this description with previews of the Thank-you and Notecards as soon as the designs are ready.
Project Progress So Far...
I am currently about halfway through compiling the main content for the eBooks. The original introduction and months January through to May are complete, ready to be checked and formatted once the whole year's worth of content is complete. So far this has taken about three weeks of snatching time late at night and spare moments throughout the day (as I mentioned earlier, I'm a working mum of three).
To date I am on track to complete this project on target. I'm currently working on June's readings and will shortly post details of a preview section so you will be able to see a sample of what the finished eBooks will be like.
Lastly... Thank you for your support!
For all who support this Kickstarter project, and to all who share news of the Harvard Classics 365 project with colleagues, family and friends, you have my heartfelt thanks!
I truly hope this project will meet it's target in order to ensure it can be completed in time for everyone to enjoy the eBooks and website in December, and follow the daily readings for 2014.
Please feel free to forward any questions you may have or make suggestions for how we can make this project a success and deliver the enjoyment of the Harvard Classics to as many people as possible.
Risks and challenges
The risks associated with this project are minimal. I already have all of the material required to complete the eBooks, and have backed up the work securely to ensure all my hard work cannot accidentally be erased, and since the project will be delivered digitally, there is no risk of errors associated with printed material.
My greatest challenge will be to ensure the eBooks will be complete, properly formatted and available for distribution and download before the deadlines I have set myself. As the project is to deliver reading material for a whole year, beginning on January 1st, both the eBooks and a proportion of the website content must be available for use before this time.
So far I have already completed around half of the core content for the eBooks (which should easily transfer as website content) and am confident that I will be able to complete the other half before the end of November this year. Proofing, editing and formatting this content will be a more difficult challenge and one which I am not sure I can complete by myself in this short time. Funding assistance provided by the success of this Kickstarter project will ensure I can hire help to be certain that the project reaches completion before the deadine.
Please be aware that Kickstarter is an "all or nothing" venture - unless we reach our goal of reaching our goal, we will receive nothing at all from this venture!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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