Gateway to the Great Books  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gateway to the Great Books is a 10-volume series of books originally published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1963 and edited by Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins. The set was designed as an introduction to the Great Books of the Western World, published by the same organization and editors in 1952. The set included selections - short stories, plays, essays, letters, and extracts from longer works - by more than one hundred authors. The selections were generally shorter and in some ways simpler than the full-length books included in the Great Books.


A number of authors in the Great Books set - such as Plutarch, Epictetus, Tacitus, Dante, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Francis Bacon, Charles Darwin and William James - were also represented by shorter works in the Gateway volumes. And several Gateway readings discussed authors in the Great Books series. For instance, a selection from Henry Adams' Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres critiqued the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Indeed, many writers in the Gateway set were eventually "promoted" to the second edition (1990) of the Great Books, such as Alexis de Toqueville, Molière, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein and John Dewey.

Index, editorial material, criticism

The set included an index similar to the Great Books' Syntopicon, along with reading plans of increasing difficulty. Hutchins contributed an introduction that was essentially a boiled-down version of The Great Conversation, his preface to the Great Books. The set contained biographical notes on the various authors, similar to those in the Great Books. However, the set also contained editorial introductions to the selections, which were generally not included in the Great Books. In another departure from the Great Books series, the set included black-and-white drawings of most of the authors by Chicago portraitist Fred Steffen, who also wrote brief notes describing the illustrations. Details from a number of these drawings were featured on the volume covers.

Although the editors maintained that many selections were appropriate to readers as young as seventh-grade students, the set included a fair amount of material challenging for the most experienced reader. In what may have been a response to complaints about the cramped typography of the Great Books, the Gateway volumes were single-column with larger, more readable type.

Many of the same criticisms leveled at the Great Books can be made of the Gateway set. The books concentrated heavily on Western European and American literature and included few selections by women or minority authors. The set is now out of print but is easily available from used book websites on the Internet.


Volume 1: Introduction; Syntopical Guide

  • A letter to the reader
  • Introduction
  • Syntopical guide
  • Appendices
    • A plan of graded reading
    • Recommended novels
    • Recommended anthologies of poetry

Volume 2: Imaginative Literature I

Volume 3: Imaginative Literature II

Volume 4: Imaginative Literature III

Volume 5: Critical Essays

Volume 6: Man and Society I

  • John Stuart Mill, "Childhood and Youth" from Autobiography
  • Mark Twain, "Learning the River" from Life on the Mississippi
  • Jean de la Bruyere, "Characters" from A Book of Characters
  • Thomas Carlyle, 'The Hero as King" from On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Thoreau"
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Sketch of Abraham Lincoln"
  • Walt Whitman, "Death of Abraham Lincoln"
  • Virginia Woolf, "The Art of Biography"
  • Xenophon, "The March to the Sea" from The Persian Expedition, "The Character of Socrates" from Memorabilia
  • William H. Prescott, "The Land of Montezuma" from The Conquest of Mexico
  • Haniel Long, "The Power within Us"
  • Pliny the Younger, "The Eruption of Vesuvius"
  • Tacitus, "The Life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola"
  • Francois Guizot, "Civilization" from History of Civilization in Europe
  • Henry Adams, "The United States in 1800" from History of the United States of America
  • John Bagnell Bury, "Herodotus" from The Ancient Greek Historians
  • Lucian, "The Way to Write History"
  • Great Documents
    • The English Bill of Rights
    • Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
    • The Virginia Declaration of Rights
    • The Declaration of Independence
    • Charter of the United Nations
    • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Thomas Paine, "A Call to Patriots - December 23, 1776"
  • George Washington, "Circular Letter to the Governors of All the States on Disbanding the Army", "The Farewell Address"
  • Thomas Jefferson, "The Virginia Constitution" from Notes on Virginia, "First Inaugural Address", "Biographical Sketches"
  • Benjamin Franklin, "A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in America", "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania"
  • Jean de Crevecoeur, "The Making of Americans" from Letters from an American Farmer
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, "Observations on American Life and Government" from Democracy in America
  • Henry David Thoreau,"Civil Disobedience", "A Plea for Captain John Brown"
  • Abraham Lincoln, "Address at Cooper Institute", "First Inaugural Address", "Letter to Horace Greeley", "Meditation on the Divine Will", "The Gettysburg Address", "Second Inaugural Address", "Last Public Address"

Volume 7: Man and Society II

  • Francis Bacon, "Of Youth and Age", "Of Parents and Children", "Of Marriage and Single Life", "Of Great Place", "Of Seditions and Troubles", "Of Custom and Education", "Of Followers and Friends", "Of Usury", "Of Riches"
  • Jonathan Swift, "Resolutions when I Come to Be Old", "An Essay on Modern Education", "A Meditation upon a Broomstick", "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country"
  • David Hume, "Of Refinement in the Arts", "Of Money", "Of the Balance of Trade", "Of Taxes", "Of the Study of History"
  • Plutarch, "Of Bashfulness"
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Lantern-Bearers" from Across the Plains
  • John Ruskin, "An Idealist's Arraignment of the Age" from Four Clavigera
  • William James, "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings", "The Energies of Men", "Great Men and Their Environment"
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, "On Education"
  • Michael Faraday, "Observations on Mental Education"
  • Edmund Burke, "Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol"
  • John Calhoun, "The Concurrent Majority"
  • Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Machiavelli"
  • Voltaire, "English Men and Ideas" from Letters on the English
  • Dante, "On World Government" from De Monarchia
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau, "A Lasting Peace through the Federation of Europe"
  • Immanuel Kant, "Perpetual Peace"
  • Karl von Clausewitz, "What Is War?" from On War
  • Thomas Robert Malthus, "The Principle of Population" from Population: The First Essay

Volume 8: Natural Science

Volume 9: Mathematics

Volume 10: Philosophical Essays

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gateway to the Great Books" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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