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Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border is a complex work which not only presents 96 poems and songs but which also elaborates the background to the ballad narratives in extended essays on history and fairy tradition, popular literature and the modus operandi of contemporary authors who contributed ballad imitations.

This diversity offers a challenge which can be satisfactorily met only by mounting a full-scale re-examination of the Minstrelsy and its context. First published in 1802 the Minstrelsy was greatly successful. Five editions were published in Scott’s lifetime alone. The achievement of Scott and his associates is that they collected and preserved ballads from a once lively oral tradition in print. The Minstrelsy had a European impact.

The editor, Sigrid Rieuwerts, and her associates, aim to bring the results of recent ballad scholarship and current insights on literacy, orality and cultural memory to bear on the contents of the work, and also to illuminate the cultural milieu in which the “ballads in print” and “ballads as sung” had their life.

This edition will therefore include the literary and antiquarian ferment that surrounded Scott’s creative genius and the cultural memory that transmitted the ballads from generation to generation. Special consideration will be given to Scandinavian cognates and to the impact of the Minstrelsy in Germany through the study of its reception and translation during Scott’s lifetime. In the course of the project we also aim to add web visual images, audio files of ballad performances, contextual discussion and commentary to this website.

Our 21st-century approach to Scott’s Minstrelsy will not only secure the first historical critical edition of one of the key texts in Scottish literature but will also lay the foundation for future use in media and education.

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