Missing pages from Sir Walter Scott book bought by library

Sir Walter Scott portrait. Picture: TSPL
Sir Walter Scott portrait. Picture: TSPL
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TWO missing pages from an original manuscript by Sir Walter Scott have been bought by the British Library – nearly 200 years after they were given away for nothing.

Scott’s romantic novel Kenilworth was published in 1821, but some pages of the author’s handwritten manuscript were given away by his publisher.

One of two missing pages from an original manuscript by Sir Walter Scott. Picture: contributed.

One of two missing pages from an original manuscript by Sir Walter Scott. Picture: contributed.

The British Library in London acquired the majority of the manuscript in 1855, but pages 14 and 15 remained missing until they reappeared at auction in New York last month.

Library officials yesterday revealed they had paid £16,000 to save the pages for the nation.

A spokeswoman said: “I can now confirm that the British Library has acquired at auction two pages of the original manuscript of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth.

“The pages were separated from the rest of Scott’s autograph manuscript around 1821, when they were given away by Scott’s publisher.

“The manuscript of most of the novel was subsequently acquired by the British Library in 1855, but these two pages – along with a few others that were also dispersed at around the same time – passed through a number of different hands over the years. This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the British Library Friends.”

One of the most successful of all of Scott’s Waverley novels, Kenilworth was first published in Edinburgh on January 8, 1821. Set in 1575, it centres on the secret marriage of the ambitious Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and tragic Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart.

Despite its success, Scott’s publisher later faced financial hardship and assets were sold off, including in 1831, the Scott manuscripts.

The Kenilworth manuscript was sold for £17 before eventually passing to the British Library in 1855, although some leaves were missing.

They included pages 14 and 15, which were gifted to the renowned geologist Edmond Logan by Scott’s friend and publisher John Ballantyne. The pages’ dramatic text begins with a meeting between two characters, Foster and Lambourne, at the end of chapter three.

Scott writes: “You are a gambler now, and live by the counting of chances – Compute me the odds that I do not on this instant throw you out of that window into the ditch 
there.”

The pages had been in a private US collection for 35 years before re-emerging at Bonhams in New York.

The British Library faced stiff competition to secure them, and had to bid well over the £6500 estimate.

Manuscripts curator Sandra Tuppen said the pages had been “saved for the nation”.

She added: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to acquire them.

“They could well have gone back into private ownership and disappeared for another generation.

“Now that they have joined the bulk of the manuscript at the British Library they won’t leave again. They are available to be studied by researchers today and in the future.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com