It is now slightly more than two hundred years since the publication of the first edition of Sir Walter Scott’s celebrated debut novel Waverley, or, ‘Tis sixty years since, the first of a sequence of historical novels sharing similar themes, which were to become popularly known as the ‘Waverley novels’. Whilst Waverley was published anonymously, most of its successors were enigmatically attributed to ‘the author of Waverley’- it is from this that the title of the latest Reed Gallery exhibition is drawn. By the author of Waverley: early editions from the Sir Walter Scott Collection is a fulsome display of chiefly first editions of the famed Scottish author’s works.
Although Scott was widely believed to be the author of Waverley, he sustained his public anonymity until 1827, when he finally chose to reveal his identity in the signed preface to his sole volume of shorter fiction, Chronicles of the Canongate.
The Dunedin Public Library’s collection of predominantly first editions of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, poetry, drama and miscellaneous works has its origins in a 1948 donation by Dunedin-born scholar and benefactor Esmond de Beer.
A comprehensive exhibition dedicated solely to the Dunedin Public Library’s Sir Walter Scott Collection has never been displayed until now. This exhibition features a chronological sequence of almost entirely first editions of Scott’s prolific output as a novelist, including Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. First and early editions of Scott’s poetry including The lay of the last minstrel, Marmion and Lady of the Lake are also prominently featured, complemented by dramatic works, autograph letters, and illustrative matter from Victorian era publications relating to the life and works of Scott.