Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Great Books of the Western World

There is perhaps no book series as well known or esteemed as Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World.  Covering a history of thought from ancient Greece to the 20th century, the 60 volume series is immense.  On Amazon, the 60 volume set costs nearly $700.  Used.  But as you may have guessed, most of what appears is not under copyright and can, in fact, be downloaded for free.  So, I've done some searching and offer you the 'nearly complete' great books of the western world.

I'm only including free ebooks and for a couple I was only able to find pdfs.

Volume 1

The Great Conversation (pdf)

Note: Volume 2 & 3 are the Syntopicon, an index and guide on the ideas contained within the rest of the series.  These are not included for download.  Also, the volume numbering in the following post is based on the first edition, not the current second edition.

Volume 4

(Note: When choosing translations, I've favored verse over prose)

The Iliad
The Odyssey

Volume 5

(first four download as one book)
The Suppliant Maidens
The Persians
Seven Against Thebes
Prometheus Bound
The Oresteia:
    The Euminides

(All download as one book)
The Oedipus Cycle (Oedipus the King/ Oedipus at Colonus/ Antigone)
Ajax (in link titled 'Aias')
The Trachiniae (in link titled 'The Trachinian Maidens')


The Suppliants
Trojan Women
Heracles Mad
Phoenician Women
Iphigeneia in Tauris
Iphigeneia at Aulis

(What follows is the order the plays are set forth in the Great Books)
The Acharnians
The Knights
The Clouds
The Wasps
The Birds

The Frogs

Downloadable in two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2)

Volume 6


The History


History of the Peloponnesian War

Volume 7


Volume 8


Minor Biological Works (I do not know what this would include)

Volume 9



On the Sphere and Cylinder
Measurement of a Circle
On Conoids and Spheroids
On Spirals
On the Equilibrium of Planes
On the Sand Reckoner
The Quadrature of the Parabola
On Floating Bodies
Book of Lemmas
(All the above in one fascimile)
The Method Treating of Mechanical Problems

Apollonius of Perga-
(Note:  On Conic Sections does not appear in the second edition)
On Conic Sections (facsimile)

Nicomachus of Gerasa

Introduction to Arithmetic (facsimile)

Volume 12


On the Nature of Things


The Discourses

Marcus Aurelius-

The Meditations

Volume 13



Volume 14


The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Volume 15

P. Cornelius Tacitus-

The Annals
The Histories

Volume 16


The Almagest

NOTE:  There are no English translations of The Almagest that are out of copyright.

Nicolaus Copernicus-

On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres (pdf)

Johannes Kepler-

NOTE:  I was unable to find any free English translations of either Kepler piece;

Epitome of Copernican Astronomy (book IV and V)
The Harmonies of the World (Book 5)

Volume 17


The Six Enneads

Volume 18

Augustine of Hippo-

The Confessions
The City of God (Volume 1 and Volume 2 facsimiles)
On Christian Doctrine (facsimile)

Volume 19 & 20

(NOTE: In the Great Books, vol. 19 contains the first part of summa theologica and selections from the second.  Volume 20 contains selections from the second and third.  I do not know which selections were made, so I have included all of all three parts.

Thomas Aquinas-

Summa Theologica

Part 1
First half of Part 2
Second half of Part 2
Part 3

2nd edition:

John Calvin-

Institutes on the Christian Religion

Volume 21

Dante Alighieri-

The Divine Comedy:


Volume 22

Geoffrey Chaucer-

(NOTE: The following links contain the original Middle English versions of the works.  I did not see any more recent translations of Troilus and Criseyde.  For The Canterbury Tales, you can find a couple other, more accessible versions here.)

Troilus and Criseyde
The Canterbury Tales

Volume 23

Niccolò Machiavelli-

The Prince

Thomas Hobbes-


2nd edition


The Praise of Folly

Volume 24

François Rabelais-

Gargantua and Pantagruel

Volume 25

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne-

Volume 26

William Shakespeare-

Volume 27

William Shakespeare-

Volume 28

William Gilbert-

Galileo Galilei-

William Harvey-

On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals
On the Circulation of Blood
On the Generation of Animals
(all the above are in this one fascimile)

Volume 29

Miguel de Cervantes-

Volume 30

Sir Francis Bacon-

Volume 31

René Descartes-

Rules for the Direction of the Mind (facsimile)
Discourse on the Method
Meditations on First Philosophy (facsimile)
Objections Against the Meditations and Replies (pdf)
The Geometry (facsimile)

Benedict de Spinoza-


2nd edition


The School for Wives
The Critique for the School for Wives
(the above two are in this facsimile)
Don Juan (facsimile)

Rean Racine-

Bérénice (facsimile)

Volume 32

John Milton-

English Minor Poems
Paradise Lost
Samson Agonistes (facsimile)

Volume 33

Blaise Pascal-

The Provincial Letters (facsimile)
Scientific and mathematical essays (NOTE:  I have no idea what this contains, as such there is nothing here)

Volume 34

Sir Isaac Newton-

Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (facsimile)

Christian Huygens-

Treatise on Light (facsimile)

2nd Edition



Denis Diderot-

Rameau's Nephew (NOTE: I was unable to find a free English translation)

Volume 35

John Locke-

A Letter Concerning Toleration
Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

George Berkeley-

The Principles of Human Knowledge

David Hume-

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Volume 36

Jonathan Swift-

Gulliver's Travels

Laurence Sterne-

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

(NOTE: Tristram Shandy does not appear in the second edition of the Great Books)

Volume 37

Henrey Fielding-

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
(NOTE: Tom Jones does not appear in the second edition of the Great Books)

Volume 38

Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu-

The Spirit of the Laws (facsimile: Volume 1 and Volume 2)

Jean Jacques Rousseau-

A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
A Discourse on Political Economy
The Social Contract
(All are included in this facsimile)

Volume 39

Adam Smith-

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Volume 40 & 41

Edward Gibbon-

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
(NOTE: The above was split into two volumes of the Great Books)

Volume 42

Immanuel Kant-

Critique of Pure Reason
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
Critique of Practical Reason
Excerpts from The Metaphysics of Morals:
- Preface and Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics with a note on Conscience
- General Introduction to the Metaphysic of Morals
- The Science of Right

The Critique of Judgment

Volume 43

The American State Papers-

The Declaration of Independence
The Articles of Confederation
The Constitution of the United States of America
(All are included in this facsimile)

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay-

The Federalist Papers

John Stuart Mill

On Liberty
Considerations on Representative Government

2nd Edition

Søren Kierkegaard-

Fear and Trembling

Friedrich Nietzsche-

Beyond Good and Evil

Volume 44

James Boswell-

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

2nd edition

Alexis de Tocqueville-

Democracy in America

Volume 45

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier-

Elements of Chemistry

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier-

Analytical Theory of Heat (facsimile)
(NOTE: This does not appear in the second edition of the Great Books)

Michael Faraday-

Experimental Researches in Electricity (Volume 1 and facsimiles of Volume 2 and Volume 3)

2nd edition

Honoré de Balzac-

Cousin Bette

Volume 46

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel-

The Philosophy of Right (facsimile)
The Philosophy of History (facsimile)

2nd edition

Jane Austen-


George Eliot-


Volume 47

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-


2nd edition

Charles Dickens-

Little Dorrit

Volume 48

Herman Melville-

Moby Dick; or, The Whale

2nd edition

Mark Twain-

Huckleberry Finn

Volume 49

Charles Darwin-

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

Volume 50

Karl Marx-

Capital (facsimile)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels-

Manifesto of the Communist Party

Volume 51

Count Leo Tolstoy-

War and Peace

Volume 52

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky-

The Brothers Karamazov

2nd edition

Henrik Ibsen-

A Doll's House
The Wild Duck
Hedda Gabler
The Master Builder

Volume 53

William James-

The Principles of Psychology

Volume 54

Sigmund Freud-

(NOTE: I was unable to find many of these.  If there is no link, I was unable to find it)
The Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis (facsimile)
Selected Papers on Hysteria (facsimile)
The Sexual Enlightenment of Children
The Future Prospects of Psycho-Analytic Theory
Observations on "Wild" Psycho-Analysis
The Interpretation of Dreams
On Narcissism
Instincts and Their Vicissitudes
The Unconscious
A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis
Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
The Ego and the Id
Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety
Thoughts for the Times on War and Death
Civilization and Its Discontents (pdf)
New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis

(NOTE:  Volumes 55-60 were added as part of the second edition of the Great Books)

Volume 55

William James-


Henri Bergson-

An Introduction to Metaphysics (facsimile)

John Dewey-

Experience and Education (Not in public domain)

Alfred Whitehead-

Science and the Modern World (Not in public domain)

Bertrand Russell-

The Problems of Philosophy

Martin Heidegger-

What is Metaphysics (Not in public domain)

Ludwig Wittgenstein-

Philosophical Investigations (Not in public domain)

Karl Barth-

The Word of God and the Word of Man (Not in public domain)

Volume 57

Henri Poincaré-

Science and Hypothesis

Max Planck-

Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (Not in public domain)

Alfred North Whitehead-

An Introduction to Mathematics

Albert Einstein-

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory

Arthur Eddington-

The Expanding Universe (Not in public domain)

Niels Bohr-

Selections from Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature (facsimile)
(NOTE: I don't know what selections were made from Atomic Theory so you get the whole thing)
Discussion with Einstein on Epistemology (Not in public domain)

G. H. Hardy-

A Mathematician's Apology (Not in public domain)

Werner Heisenberg-

Physics and Philosophy (Not in public domain)

Erwin Schrödinger-

What Is Life? (pdf)

Theodosius Dobzhansky-

Genetics and the Origin of Species (Not in public domain)

C. H. Waddington-

The Nature of Life (Not in public domain)

Volume 57

Thorstein Veblen-

The Theory of the Leisure Class

R. H. Tawney-

The Acquisitive Society

John Maynard Keynes-

The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Volume 58

Sir James George Frazer-

Selections from The Golden Bough 
(NOTE: I don't know what selections were made, so you get the whole thing.)

Max Weber-

Selections from Essays in Sociology (facsimile)
(NOTE: I don't know what selections were made, so you get the whole thing.)

Johan Huizinga-

The Autumn of the Middle Ages (facsimile)

Claude Lévi-Strauss-

Selections from Structural Anthropology (Not in public domain)


According to Australian copyright law, any works published by authors who died prior to 1955 are in the public domain in Australia.  As such, if you aren't Australian and download certain of the following books, you could be guilty of (drumroll) copyright infringement.  So I'm just going to assume that you are all upstanding citizens who would never dare download anything in a manner that might constitute (dramatic music) copyright infringement!

Volume 59

Henry James-

The Beast in the Jungle

George Bernard Shaw-

Saint Joan (Not in public domain)

Joseph Conrad-

Heart of Darkness

Anton Chekov-

Uncle Vanya

Luigi Pirandello-

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Marcel Proust-

Remembrance of Things Past: "Swann in Love"
(NOTE: To the best I've been able to determine, "Swann in Love" is a section in the first volume of In Search of Lost Time)

Willa Cather-

A Lost Lady

Thomas Mann-

Death in Venice (Not in public domain)

James Joyce-

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Volume 60

Virginia Woolf-

To the Lighthouse

Franz Kafka-

The Metamorphosis

D. H. Lawrence-

The Prussian Officer

T. S. Eliot-

The Waste Land

Eugene O'Neill-

Mourning Becomes Electra

F. Scott Fitzgerald-

The Great Gatsby

William Faulkner-

A Rose for Emily (Not in public domain)

Bertolt Brecht-

Mother Courage and Her Children (Not in public domain)

Ernest Hemingway-

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (Not in public domain)

George Orwell-

Animal Farm

Samuel Beckett-

Waiting for Godot (Not in public domain)


  1. This is an amazing resource. Thanks!

  2. Serious amount of research here - thank you! I shall start reading, from the bottom up