Novel studies and book history alike emphasize the significance of Walter Scott's creation of his Magnum Opus edition (1829–33): a repossession, on behalf of a newly individuated author and between the covers of a uniformly manufactured edition, of publications that had previously appeared as the works of sundry authorial eidolons. For a nineteenth‐century culture of collected editions, this act of rebinding represented a foundational moment. But Scott's novels also figured prominently within a robust tradition of commonplacing and scrapbooking in which books were understood as things that came apart, literally and figuratively, as well as things that came together. Nineteenth‐century readers were keen to cut up, recontextualize, and reboot Scott's printed works inside their own homemade manuscript volumes. Guided by their practices, we are able to see how Scott's own novels—particularly Waverley, Rob Roy, The Monastery—yield an alternative account of the book as something scrappy, loosely bound, and made through scissors and paste methods: a temporary gathering ready to be dispersed once more. This essay explores the implications of this alternative account of the book for our ideas of novelistic form, and in particular for what Elaine Freedgood has called the “diegetic illusion”: a way of conceptualizing texts as though they were tightly bound books, which understands novels as the containers for enclosed, bounded worlds. To trace these implications is to see how the dispersive readings that helped define Scott's nineteenth‐century afterlife might also prove useful points of reference for twenty‐first‐century efforts to decolonize novel studies’ understanding of its object.

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