23 September

As noted at the 3 September post, Hamilton Wright Mabie was involved in the Library of the World's Best Literature [1896], a 30-volume set for which he served as a co-associate editor (with Lucia Gilbert Runkle and George Henry Warner); Charles Dudley Warner was the editor. The line separating this kind of project from Adler and Hutchins's Great Books of the Western World or Eliot's Harvard Classics is thin and blurry, some would say non-existent. For the purposes of this project, however, it's closer to literature anthologies commonly used in the classroom than to the "great books" sets. Still, it's only closer. I'd like to include it, but for the time being it's too large, with too many short readings and excerpts of works.

The creators of the set present it in much the same way Eliot and Adler/ Hutchins would their own projects. In the 'Publishers' Preface' to the final volume, the Guide to Systematic Readings and General Index, the set is said to provide "an incalculable service to home-study and self-culture" of those at any educational level. "Year after year for any course of years, the eager student or the ordinary reader may take courses of acquisition or enjoyment, as in some vast university whose doors never close and whose resources of spiritual ministry are never exhausted."

Of especial notice in that indexing volume are the Chronological Conspectuses of National Literatures. Once you see the myriad of names listed even under smaller nations, or languages/ ethnicities, you get a clear idea of how intricate this collection is. Besides a standard index, this book features a massive section called 'Outline Survey of the Principal Topics and Chief Lines of Interest', these topics being defined geographically, by subject, or by varied sorts of genres ('Sacred Books of the World', 'Medical Interest', etc.).