Originally published between 1909 and 1917 under the name "Harvard Classics," this stupendous 51-volume set-a collection of the greatest writings from literature, philosophy, history, and mythology-was assembled by American academic CHARLES WILLIAM ELIOT (1834-1926), Harvard University's longest-serving president. Also known as "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf," it represented Eliot's belief that a basic liberal education could be gleaned by reading from an anthology of works that could fit on five feet of bookshelf.
Volume XIV features the work recently named by the Nobel Institute as the greatest book of all time: Don Quixote of the Mancha, Part 1, by Spanish novelist MIGUEL DE CERVANTES (1547-1616). The picaresque adventures of a delusional would-be knight have, over the centuries, been taken as farce, satire, psychological drama, and social commentary, and have inspired writers as diverse as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky. Straddling the writings of the Renaissance and modern literature, it is considered the first modern novel.