The 47 lists compiled and collated at this site span the years, 1886-2016, and are nearly as varied in purpose, persons involved, and final result. Some of them rank the literary works, but most do not, insteading arranging them chronologically; alphabetically by author or work; ormost oftentopically. In this context, topical arrangement more often than not means that the list derived from a book about books, not intended to be a canon or list of classics, but often presenting the works discussed in list form, or lending itself to be easily made into a list: what I call a book-as-list.
The guidelines explain the criteria used to determine which lists to include. Suffice to say, the master list created from the 47 individual lists allows the user to see which literary works have appeared most frequently on lists of books that cover all literary history, or at least the literay history of the "West" or "East." Unfortunately, many of these lists have implicitly been confined to West European (and, to a lesser extent, Central European) nations and languages, and are often dominated by English-language works. Moreover, most of the lists have originated in the United States, in some such cases certainly suggesting an unsurprising bias in favor of U S writers. However, in recent years, lists representing a wider selection of cultural traditions have appeared.
The links here take the form of a one-word tag for each list; these tags are also used in the master list to indicate which, of the individual lists, each literary work appears in. The page for each list has a brief description of the provenance of the list, and will eventually feature a transcription of how it was presented in the original document. The descriptions also at times clarify how the ambiguous or broad selections made by the listmaker (in some cases, these are a significant number of the selections) were interpreted.
Finally, for formality's sake, please note that the titles of monographical works are not italicized within lists. Though I would generally prefer otherwise, such titles being in italics would perhaps be too distracting given the amount of information contained in each entry, especially those with multiple tites (these also would require more effort to code because the alternate titles are contained within a different set of H T M L tags) and of course only add to the already-enormous data size of the Master List (it can more easily be searched and edited as long as it remains a single page).
In the summer of 2020, the submaster list was completed and the 47 individual lists were proofread, checked against both the master list and the submaster list. By the end of 2020, a download spreadsheet with all of the information from at least the master list will be available. As each list was updated, edits were noted. There were a few mistakes here and there in the tallies for certain literary works; and at times the lists in which a work is included were not noted correctly in the work's entry. By the end of 2020, these corrected versions of the lists will have been used to double-check the S Q L tables already in use at the Search page, the hope being in later years to improve the searching apparatus.
A list that we originally hoped to include, derived from Ian P McGreal's Great Thinkers of the Eastern World (1992) and Great Literature of the Eastern World (1996), currently presents too much of a challenge in terms of bibliographic research. The relative obscurity of many of those works (from the perspective of an English speaker in the United States, that is) means that we would not be able to ensure for their listings the modicum of accuracy currently maintained at this site. Read more about it at the excluded lists page.
Another potential list comes from the book Printing and the Mind of Man: A Descriptive Catalogue Illustrating the Impact of Print on the Evolution of Western Civilization During Five Centuries , published as a counterpart to, and expansion upon, the famous 1963 exhibition of the same name. This exhibition, split into three parts, accompanied the Eleventh International Printing Machinery and Allied Trades Exhibition ("IPEX") in London. Its Supervisory Committe states, "The purpose of the historical exhibitions annexed to IPEX 1963 is to illustrate the internal development of that invention [printing], in the technical progress of printing as a craft; the external development, in the finest achievements of printing as an art; and, beyond the limits of the art and craft of printing, to demonstrate the impact of printing on the mind of man and the effect it has had on the history of the last five hundred years." The first and third of these was displayed together at Earls Court, the second at the British Museum. Accordingly, a single catalog covered the Earls Court show. Its title: Catalogue of a Display of Printing Mechanisms and Printed Materials Arranged to Illustrate the History of Western Civilization and the Means of the Multiplication of Literary Texts Since the XV Century. The title of the second part of the exhibition, at the British Museum, was An Exhibition of Fine Printing.
The larger 1967 book includes only the items from the third part of the exhibition (that is, to be clear about how confusing this set-up is, the part about "the impact of printing on the mind of man," that is, one part of the two-pronged Earls Court portion of the exhibition), but with some edits. No items from the exhibition were excluded, but, as the editors state, "in certain cases [...] we have substituted as the main entry a more representative publication by the author included or an edition more significant for our purpose than the one exhibited; in others [...] we have combined two entries under one heading; in a number of cases [...] we have added, as sub-entries, publications by other authors, for the fuller exposition of the subject; and there are twelve additional entries." While the items in the first part include different types of presses, type moulds, and so on, the second part includes many items suitable for a list at this site. However, those entries were chosen because of the design of the printed object itself, not the historical significance of the literary work. Thus, the 1967 book alone would be used to construct a list; but it has 424 entries, and given that several of those include multiple works, it would make for one of the longer lists at Greater Books. It is on hold for now.