Ian Rankin archive ready for readers to explore at national library

Readers will soon be able to explore the literary archive of crime writer Ian Rankin as it becomes available at the National Library of Scotland this week.

Mr Rankin donated his archive to the library in Edinburgh in 2019, describing it as “a pretty complete author’s life, late-20th century-style”.

The creator of John Rebus the detective also made a substantial donation towards the creation of a post to itemise and catalogue each item for the library.

Curator Rosemary Hall, who took up the post, surveyed around 50 boxes of material, dating from 1972 to 2018, and the cataloguing process has resulted in 387 files and manuscripts that people can view at the reading rooms.

This includes correspondence with literary figures such as Ruth Rendell, as well as publishing companies, production companies, charities and police officers.

Ms Hall said: “It’s been a privilege to work with a collection of such international importance. What archivists don’t typically have is the ability to involve the author whose archive we are working with.

“This allowed me to gain a richer insight into the materials. It’s exciting that we can now share this with the public.”

Ms Hall and the author will discuss the archive and its contents over an exclusive online event on Thursday evening, with details available via the National Library of Scotland website.

Curator Rosemary Hall
Curator Rosemary Hall

The archive will be available at the library’s reading rooms from Friday December 18.

Usual access applies and library members can book a place at the special collections reading room through the library’s website.

When he donated the archive last year, Rankin said: “I remember that in my first week as a postgraduate student we were given a tour of the National Library of Scotland, including access to the basement levels.

“Those vaulted underground corridors would reappear in the climactic scenes of my first Rebus novel.

“The library has seemed like a friend ever since, so it seems fitting – as well as a thrill and an honour – that my archive should find a permanent home there.”

Ms Hall’s curatorial post was also made possible through generous donations from The W M Mann Foundation and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.