Born on 4 August 1790 in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Peter Buchan was a Scottish collector of ballads and folktales, an editor and printer. In 1813, he married Margaret Mathew, with whom he would go on to have 10 children, and he was a jobbing tradesman when he went to Stirling in 1816 to learn the printing process before establishing his own business as a printer in Peterhead.


Through the 1830s and 40s, the family moved to Aberdeen, then south to Glasgow, before moving to a property near Dennyloanhead, Stirlingshire, and despite his various unsuccessful attempts to obtain employment in Edinburgh and London to supplement his literary career, Buchan devoted himself to collecting old Scottish songs and ballads from oral sources.


In 1825, he published ‘Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish Scarce Old Ballads,’ and 3 years later, ‘Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland’—a collection which contained a large number of ballads that had not been published at that time, as well as discovering new versions of existing ones. His work was known to contemporaries such as Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, William Motherwell, and Sir Walter Scott, who referred to Buchan’s collection in the 1830, and final, edition of ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,’ an anthology of Border ballads.


Buchan also compiled a collection of folk and fairytales, the original manuscript of which dates from 1827-9 and was known to John Francis Campbell, who discussed them in the Introduction to his ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands’ (1860), and Robert Chambers.  In fact, the story of ‘The Red Etin’ included in the revised 1841 edition of Chambers’ ‘Popular Rhymes of Scotland,’ within the new section entitled ‘Fireside Nursery Stories,’ is stated as being from Buchan’s “curious manuscript collection.” The Tales as a whole were published, with a limited print run and an introduction by John A. Fairley, in 1908, over 50 years after Buchan’s death on a visit to London on 19 September 1854.

Available Titles by Peter Buchan: