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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 11:56 GMT
Scott archive goes online
National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland holds 10,000 letters
The results of seven years of detective work by an academic tracking down letters by Sir Walter Scott are being made available online.

Professor Jane Millgate has compiled a record of almost 14,000 letters written by or to the author.

Almost 10,000 of them are held in the collections of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Millgate Union Catalogue, which documents the location of the letters, has now been made available through the library's website.

Sir Walter Scott, who died in 1832, was one of the 19th century's most renowned and prolific writers.

Prominent politicians

The author of almost 30 novels and a series of long romantic poems, he had political and social interests ranging far beyond his Scottish homeland.

An enthusiastic letter-writer, his correspondents included prominent politicians, scientists, painters and actors.

Prof Millgate is Professor of English at the University of Toronto and the current president of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club.

She said: "The initial challenge was the location of Scott's letters.

The catalogue is available online
"While many of these had come to the National Library of Scotland over the years, others lay scattered all over the world."

The surviving letters cover a wide range of subjects, from old ballads to the major political questions of the day.

Herbert Grierson published a 12-volume centenary edition of Scott's letters between 1932 and 1937, containing 3,500 letters.

Professor Millgate began her project in 1995, having spent 25 years studying and writing about the author.

She said: "In my innocence back in the 1970s, I assumed that Grierson and his team had gathered all the letters that could be found and that only a few would have escaped their attention.

"But having set out to look at the original manuscripts of Scott's novels and poems wherever possible, I quickly discovered that the manuscript collections I visited on both sides of the Atlantic often contained unpublished Scott letters and that there were, in fact, significant gaps in the centenary edition."

Almost 7,000 of Scott's own letters have been traced so far, almost doubling the 3,500 published in the Grierson edition.

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