Sir Walter Scott’s desk on show at refurbished Writers’ Museum

Gillian Findlay with busts of Burns, Scott and Stevenson at the Writers' Museum. Picture: Neil Hanna
Gillian Findlay with busts of Burns, Scott and Stevenson at the Writers' Museum. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE desk at which Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Waverley novels has gone on public display for the first time.

His inkwell will also feature in a new dedicated gallery to the author at the refurbished Writers’ Museum.

The attraction, in the Lawnmarket, reopened this morning after undergoing a two-month revamp – just in time to celebrate Burns Night.

The museum boasts the city’s rare collection of writers’ portraits, first-edition books and personal belongings of the likes of Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

It also now features a new temporary exhibition and events space in a bid to showcase Edinburgh’s great literary history.

Gillian Findlay, senior curator for the council’s museums, said: “The display of Walter Scott’s original writing desk has been made possible thanks to a generous lender who privately owns this wonderful artefact and the fabulous letters and notes it contains.

“We are very grateful to be able to display this material publicly for our reopening.”

The museum makes up part of the Capital’s Literature Quarter, comprising the Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Scottish Book Trust, Canongate Books and Makars’ Court and the National Library of Scotland.

It occupies the historic A-listed Lady Stair’s House, built in 1622 by Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, an Edinburgh merchant burgess.

Its many subsequent owners include Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Stair, whose name remains associated with the house and adjacent close.

In 1895, when threatened by a housing clearance scheme, the property was purchased and renovated by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, a direct descendent of the first owner. The Earl gifted the house to the City of Edinburgh in 1907 for use as a museum.

The writers celebrated in the museum have no direct connection with the house.

However, all three would have been familiar with the closes and wynds of the Old Town, and Robert Burns lived in neighbouring Baxter’s Close when he arrived in Edinburgh in 1786.

The exhibition space will open with a temporary display explaining Edinburgh’s designation as a Unesco City of Literature.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture leader, said: “The dedicated exhibition room to Walter Scott will give a fascinating insight into his life and works, while the reopening of the museum in time for Burns Night will provide visitors with the ideal way to mark the Bard’s special day.

“The Writers’ Museum celebrates some of Scotland’s most revered writers and notable thinkers. Now it will be able to celebrate contemporary and budding writing talent, too.”

The free attraction reopened at 10am today, with free tours available on Thursdays and Saturdays at 1pm and 3pm. A number of Burns-themed celebrations will take place over the coming days.