Gateway to the Great Books

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Volume one of Gateway to the Great Books

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 Dostoyevsky, 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. In addition, 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 Tocqueville, Molière, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein and John Dewey.

Index, editorial material, criticism[edit]

The set included an index similar to the Great Books' Syntopicon, along with reading plans of increasing difficulty. Hutchins wrote an introduction with a more informal tone than he used in The Great Conversation, his preface to the Great Books, and that chiefly explained the relevance of most of the categories making up the set: "The Imagination of Man" (about fiction and drama), "Man and Society," "Science and Mathematics," and "Philosophy." 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. The Gateway volumes were single-column with large, readable type.


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

Volume 7: Man and Society II

Volume 8: Natural Science

Volume 9: Mathematics

Volume 10: Philosophical Essays

External links[edit]