Scott's Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History

Scott's Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History

Scott's Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History

Scott's Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History

Excerpt

The publication of the forty-eight-volume collected edition of the Waverley Novels between 1829 and 1833 marked a crucial stage not only in the development of the texts of those particular novels but in the general history of publishing. In the years since the first publication of Waverley itself in 1814 the fame of the Author of Waverley had grown to unprecedented proportions, and the public acknowledgement of authorship made by Sir Walter Scott in 1827 served, if anything, to raise still further the level of interest in both the writer and his work. The decision to reissue Waverley and its successors with textual revisions, introductions, and extensive annotations by the author was made by Scott and his publisher with a view to capitalising on this interest, but in opting for a mass-market issue in monthly volumes they were taking a deliberate gamble. In the event that gamble proved amazingly successful and established a model for numerous other monthly publishing ventures in the period. But the magnum opus edition, as Scott liked to call it, also had a more far-reaching effect: in collecting and annotating his writings in this way Scott was implicitly assigning to fiction a status previously reserved for poetry and drama, and to the productions of a living author a treatment normally accorded only to the achievements of the great masters of the past. For although Scott's introductions and notes were engagingly modest and even self-deprecating--thus diminishing the impression of egotism--they in no way compromised the statement made by the very fact of bringing his novels together as an oeuvre.

For the editor, textual scholar, historian of publishing, and . . .

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