I promessi sposi
or The betrothed
Originally published between 1909 and 1917 under the name "Harvard Classics," this stupendous 51-volume set-a collection of the greatest writings from literature, philosophy, history, and mythology-was assembled by American academic CHARLES WILLIAM ELIOT (1834-1926), Harvard University's longest-serving president. Also known as "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf," it represented Eliot's belief that a basic liberal education could be gleaned by reading from an anthology of works that could fit on five feet of bookshelf. Volume XXI features the 1827 novel I Promessi Sposi (The Bethrothed), by Italian writer ALESSANDRO MANZONI (1785-1873), considered the most beloved work in the Italian language. A historical romance inspired by Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, it is the tale of lovers Renzo and Lucia and their quest to be together. Beautifully evocative of its 17th-century setting, it is noted for its dramatic depiction of plague-addled Milan.