27 October

The Newsweek issue of September 20, 1937, featured a brief report about St. John's College's announcement of a new curriculum based on "the world's greatest 126 books." The college's new president, Stringfellow Barr, and its dean, Scott Buchanan, based their choice of books "on their experience at Columbia, Chicago, Virginia and Oxford universities." To obtain their degree in this four-year plan, students "must prove they know the 126 books forward and backward, show a competence in the liberal arts, ability to read at least two foreign languages, know mathematics through elementary calculus, and have passed 300 hours of laboratory science." Robert Hutchins no less, of the University of Chicago and later to become co-editor of The Great Books of the Western World, joined the college's "board of visitors and governors" and praised the new curriculum as a potential turning point in liberal-arts education. 

We're not including any St. John's list, or any syllabi/ curricula, in this project, given that they are essentially ongoing projects persistently changing, at least in principle. Granted, a course that has ended or at least changed its name, for example Columbia's General Honors course, the first "great books" class, which morphed into the Colloquium on Important Books fairly early in that program's history, could be included, but generally speaking such a project would require original archival research. For now, we can compare the current reading lists [see 26 February post] to this original 126-item canon (transcribed as it is presented in the Newsweek article):


Homer, Iliad and Odyssey;

Æschylus, Oresteia;
Herodotus, History;
Sophocles, Œdipus Rex;
Hippocrates, Selections;
Euripides, Medea and Electra
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars;
Old Testament;
Aristophanes, Frogs, Clouds, Birds;
Aristarchus, on the Distance of the Sun and Moon;
Aristoxenus, Harmony;
Plato, Mena, Republic, Sophist;
Aristotle, Organon and Poetics;
Archimedes, Works;
Euclid, Elements;
Apollonius, Conics;
Lucian, True History;
Plutarch, Lives;
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things;
Nicomachus, Introduction to Arithmetic
Ptolemy, Almagest;
Virgil, Æneid;
Strabo, Geography;
Livy, History of Rome;
Cicero, De Officiis; 
Horace, Ars Poetica;
Ovid, Metamorphoses;
Quintillian, Institutes;
Marcus Aurelius, To Himself;
New Testament
Galen, On the Natural Faculties;
Plotinus, Enneads;
Augustine, De Musica and De Magistro;
Song of Roland;
Volsunga Saga;
Bonaventura, On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology;
Thomas, Summa Theologica.

Roger Bacon, Opus Maius;

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales;
Leonardo, Note-books;
Erasmus, Colloquies;
Rabelais, Gargantua;
Copernicus, De Revolutionibus;
Machiavelli, The Prince;
Harvey, On the Motion of the Heart;
Gilbert, On the Magnet;
Kepler, Epitome of Astronomy;
Galileo, Two New Sciences;
Descartes, Geometry;
Francis Bacon, Novum Organum;
Hobbes, Leviathan;
Montaigne, Essays;
Cervantes, Don Quixote;
Shakespeare, Hamlet, King Lear;
Calvin, Institutes;
Grotius, The Law of War and Peace;
Corneille, Le Cid;
Racine, Phedre;
Moliere, Tartuffe;
Spinoza, Ethics;
Milton, Paradise Lost;
Leibniz, Mathematical Papers;
Newton, Principia;
Boyle, Skeptical Chymist;
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws;
Swift, Gulliver's Travels;
Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Voltaire, Candide;

Fielding, Tom Jones;
Rousseau, Social Contract;
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations;
Hume, Treatise of Human Nature;
Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;
Constitution of the United States;
Federalist Papers;
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason;
Goethe, Faust;
Hegel, Science of Logic;
Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea;
Coleridge, Biographia Literaria;
Bentham, Principles of Morals and of Legislation;
Malthus, Essay on the Principles of Population;
Mill, System of Logic;
Marx, Capital;
Balzac, Père Goriot;
Thackeray, Henry Esmond;
Dickens, David Copperfield;
Flaubert, Madame Bovary;
Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment;
Tolstoy, War and Peace
Zola, Experimental Novel;
Ibsen, The Doll's House.

Dalton, A New System of Chemical Philosophy;

Clifford, The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences;
Fourier, Mathematical Analysis of Heat;
Faraday, Experimental Researches Into Electricity;
Peacock, Algebra;
Lobachevski, Theory of Parallels;
Darwin, Origin of Species;
Mendel, Papers;
Bernard, Introduction to Experimental Medicine;
Galton, Enquiries Into the Human Mind and Its Faculties;
Joule, Scientific Papers;
Maxwell, Electricity and Magnetism;
Gauss, Mathematical Papers;
Galois, Mathematical Papers;
Boole, Laws of Thought;
Hamilton, Quarternions;
Riemann, The Hypotheses of Geometry;
Cantor, Transfinite Numbers;
Virchow, Cellular Pathology;
Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis;
Hilbert, Foundations of Geometry;
James, Principles of Psychology;
Freud, Papers on Hysteria;
Russell and Whitehead, Principia Mathematica;
Veblen and Young, Projective Geometry.