The Harvard Universal Classics, originally known as Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, is a 51-volume anthology of classic works from world literature compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot and first published in 1909.[1]

Eliot had stated in speeches that the elements of a liberal education could be obtained by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf. (Originally he had said a three-foot shelf.) The publisher P. F. Collier and Son saw an opportunity and challenged Eliot to make good on this statement by selecting an appropriate collection of works, and the Harvard Classics was the result. (copied from wikipedia)