CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 2303
TitlePeter Buchan, printer, writer and ballad-collector: papers
Date1811 - 1915
Extent5 boxes and 2 volumes: 1.65 linear metres
Creator NamePeter Buchan (1790 - 1854), printer, writer and ballad-collector.
Administrative HistoryPeter Buchan was born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, on 4 August 1790. He began life as a jobbing printer and tradesman but later devoted himself mainly to the collection of old songs and ballads of the north of Scotland, and the printing and publishing of these, together with verses, tracts, and other works of his own. His main claim to fame rests on his 'Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish scarce old ballads' (1825) and 'Ancient Ballads and songs of the north of Scotland, hitherto unpublished' (1828).

He married Margaret Mathew (d 1860) in 1813, by whom he had 10 children: Patrick, John, Charles Forbes, David Stuart, James, Janet, Margaret Irvine, Gordon (a daughter), Alexander Forbes, and William Gordon. Patrick shared his father's interest in Scottish balladry and folklore, and like Charles and David, also wrote poetry. Examples of their work are contained in this collection. Other relatives of Buchan frequently mentioned in the records listed here are his sister Anne, her husband Alexander Scott, and their children, William and David.

The family moved to Aberdeen in 1831, then south to Glasgow, in 1838, and in 1845 to a property which they named "Buchanstown", near Dennyloanhead, Stirlingshire. Buchan's various unsuccessful attempts to obtain employment in Edinburgh and London to supplement his literary career are well documented in this collection and elsewhere. He was eventually compelled to dispose of his property and manuscripts, after protracted litigation with his creditors, and retired in 1852 to live with one of his sons in Drumkerrin, Ireland. He died during a visit to London on 19 Sept 1854.
Custodial HistoryThese papers were bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931. Walker had acquired Buchan's original manuscripts from various sources, including the widow of David Buchan's nephew, David Scott, some time before 1915 and added other papers to the collection in 1916. He was also permitted to copy papers in the possession of John A. Fairley and to incorporate information relating to Buchan's manuscript in the British Museum Library and in Harvard University Library. Sales of Buchan's papers in the late nineteenth century had led them to become dispersed amongst various individuals and institutions in Britain and North America.
DescriptionPersonal papers of and relating to Peter Buchan and his family, 1811 - 1915. The collection was assembled by William Walker (1840 - 1931), who drew extensively upon it for his work, 'Peter Buchan and Other Papers on Scottish and English Ballads and Songs' ' (Aberdeen: Wyllie, 1915). It comprises 251 letters addressed to Peter Buchan and others, relating mainly to his literary activities, 1816 - 1854 (with index, compiled by William Walker); a further series of 27 letters from members of Peter Buchan's family, especially his son, James Buchan, relating mainly to domestic matters and to trading ventures by James and his brother John Buchan, in Antigua, St Thomas and Tobago in the West Indies, 1845 - 1847; volume containing autobiographical account of Peter Buchan, lyrics written and collected by him, miscellaneous illustrations, verses, papers and correspondence, 1812 - 1854; volume containing poems, notes on Scottish song and notes on voyage from Peterhead to Greenland by Patrick Buchan, together with cuttings of printed poems of Rev. C.F. Buchan (alias Presbuteros), and comments on same, by William Walker, 1831 - 1841; volume containing miscellaneous letters and papers relating to Peter Buchan, many being annotated copies made by William Walker, 1816 - 1912; volume containing extracts of the Peter Buchan manuscript in the British Museum (Add. MSS 29408 - 9: see Related Units of Description for further details), made for William Walker and annotated by him, n.d., c 1912; papers relating to the composition of 2 poems by Patrick Buchan, later published anonymously as ' The Guidman o' Inglismill' and 'The Fairy Bride', in the series "Legends of the North" (Edinburgh and Peterhead, 1873), n.d., pre-1873; folder of miscellaneous and ephemeral material relating to Patrick Buchan and his sons, Peter Buchan and David Buchan, 1811 - 1853.
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementCorrespondence is arranged chronologically by series; contents of volumes are listed by page; miscellaneous papers are bundle-listed.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
OriginalsOne volume in the collection contains extracts of the Peter Buchan manuscript in the British Museum (Add. MSS 29408 - 9), made for William Walker and annotated by him, n.d., c 1912. All other material in the collection is original.
Related MaterialList of books of James Hay Beattie (1768-90) with inscription by Peter Buchan (1790-1854) (MS 2122)

Other material relating to Peter Buchan is held by the British Library, Glasgow University and Harvard University.

Several further collections of manuscripts and books, of and relating to William Walker, are deposited in the University.
Publication NoteLetters and Papers of Peter Buchan, 1790-1854. Northern Scotland, Volume 1, No. 1 (1972), pp.119-21.

Correspondence appearing in this collection is printed in full in William Walker's 'Peter Buchan and Other Papers on Scottish and English Ballads and Songs' (Aberdeen, Wyllie, 1915).
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