Peter Buchan 1790-1854

From Book Owners Online

Peter BUCHAN 1790-1854

Biographical Note

Peter Buchan was a historian, publisher and largely self-taught collector of folk songs. He was the son of Peter Buchan and Janet Buchan, and married Margaret Matthew.

Buchan was an important early collector of Scottish folk-songs and folk-tales and member of the Scottish Antiquarian Society. He ran the first printing shop in Peterhead from 1816, publishing mostly his own works of multiple topics - ballad and song collections, 'popular theology, political tracts, poems and stories' and a play (ONDB). His works included The Recreation of Leisure Hours: Being Original Songs and Verses, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1814), Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish, Scarce Old Ballads (1825), Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (1828), Annals of Peterhead (1819) and An Historical and Authentic Account of the Ancient and Noble Family of Keith (1820), and a popular miscellany, The Selector.


His library was sold at auction during his lifetime at William Smith & Co.'s sale-rooms at 2 Broad Street, Aberdeen, on 13th-25th April 1837. 1229 lots of books and several more unnumbered lots of manuscripts were listed. This catalogue shows a wide range of books - a collection of old plays, poetry, several books on witchcraft including Reginald Scott's 1584 Discouerie of Witchcraft, songs and ballad collections, and legal texts. A letter from Buchan is enclosed in the copy of the auction catalogue at the National Library of Scotland, expressing regret at the loss of his library: "My soul was in my Books - they were my early companions, and my greatest solace in a trying hour, many too many [...] They were collected when my spirits were light, and had become as my household gods, but now they lie scattered far and wide".

There is an author's inscribed presentation copy of one of his books at Glasgow University Library (Sp Coll Mu2-y.24), presented to David Laing: "To my good Friend, Mr David Laing, This volume is presented by the Editor, With every Testimony of respect & esteem. March 25th 1820. This is the very first impression of the plate before corrected - I have sent you it to show you the figure. - PB - Please burn it, as I shall send you one corrected as soon as printed."


  • Donaldson, William. "Buchan, Peter (1790–1854), folk-song collector, historian, and publisher." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.
  • Catalogue of the private library of Peter Buchan ... consisting of upwards of two thousand volumes of rare and curious books, and unpublished manuscripts ... which will be sold by auction, in Wm. Smith & Co.'s sale-rooms ... Aberdeen, on Thursday the 13th April, 1837, and following evenings [11 nights] (Aberdeen, 1837) [NLS: L.C.283, includes MS letter about sale].