This paper opens by surveying Scott’s work as an editor of literature, historical documents, and memoirs between 1802 and 1815. It argues that he was the first to recognise that in transmission texts deteriorate, but that his main aim in editing was to prevent loss, both of the texts and the memory of them. It demonstrates that he deploys the knowledge gleaned from editing in the notes to the long poems, but argues that his greatest achievement was in naturalising this learning in the speech of characters in his ‘Scotch’ novels. It contends that the change in artistic methodology was prompted by his experience of editing memoirs, and by his own experiments in life-writing. It concludes by suggesting that Scott was actuated by the extraordinary ambition of unifying knowledge within the autonomous work of art, and of harmonising all that is known within his oeuvre.