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MS Eng 1491

Buchan, Peter, 1790-1854. Peter Buchan collection, 1823-1900: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: f
Call No.: MS Eng 1491
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: Peter Buchan collection
Date(s): 1823-1900
Quantity: 1 linear feet (6 volumes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Letters, manuscripts, and transcripts by and about Peter Buchan, the Scottish printer, publisher, writer, and ballad text collector.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Acquired from various sources at various times. See items for full acquisition information.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt
This material formed part of the Harvard College Library Treasure Room ballad collection. The items in this finding aid were selected based on likeness of topic and reclassified in April 2005.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Peter Buchan Collection, 1823-1900 (MS Eng 1491). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Peter Buchan (1790-1854) was a Scottish ballad collector, historian, printer, and publisher. He was born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, the only son of Janet and Peter Buchan. As a young man he embarked on a number of walking tours of northeast Scotland, collecting a great number of songs and ballads. In 1816 he set-up the first printing shop in Peterhead . He is best known as one of the most important early collectors of folk-songs and folk-tales in Scotland. Two resulting publications from his ballad work were: Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish, scarce old ballads (1825) and Ancient ballads and songs of the north of Scotland (2v, 1828).
The transcript in this collection was produced for American philologist and Harvard professor, Francis James Child, for his research for: English and Scottish popular ballads (1882-1898). One-third of the primary 'A' texts in Child's classic Ballads were collected in Aberdeenshire, of which thirty-seven came from Buchan.


Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Contents

Includes two original ballad manuscripts compiled by Peter Buchan: Secret songs of silence and The ancient unpublished national ballads of Scotland ... , as well as a transcript of his ballad manuscript in the British Museum: Ancient minstrelsy of the north of Scotland in its original purity ... Also includes: correspondence between Buchan and the poet and ballad editor, William Motherwell (1797-1835), concerning publication of Buchan's writings; a letter from folklorist William Walker (1840-1931) conveying Buchan's manuscript Secret songs ... to Harvard College librarian Justin Winsor; a typescript essay about Buchan by James Cameron; a manuscript poem on Buchan; and some annotations by Francis James Child.

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