Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley”
July marks the 200th anniversary of the first appearance of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Waverley. Scott had already found great success with his poetry, such as The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) and Marmion (1808), but Waverley was a runaway bestseller. It was first published in an edition of 1000 copies, which sold out in less than a week. His publishers issued three more editions within the next year.
Scott’s foray into writing novels was at first an experiment—Waverley is one of the first historical novels ever written, set during the Jacobin uprising in Scotland in 1745. Scott issued Waverley anonymously although reviewers identified him as the author within a few months. He did not publicly acknowledge his authorship of Waverley or his other novels until 1827.
Special Collections has a large assortment of first editions of Scott’s novels, poems, and critical works. Our copy of Waverley (shown here) was owned by Scott’s contemporary, the Anglican writer and cleric Sydney Smith, who was a founder and frequent contributor to the influential 19th century magazine of politics and culture, the Edinburgh Review.