Sir Ian Rankin donated his archive to the National Library (Neil Hanna/PA)
05 October 2022

Items from Sir Ian Rankin’s archive to go on display at National Library

05 October 2022

Manuscripts, photos and other items from crime writer Sir Ian Rankin’s literary archive will go on display at the National Library of Scotland next week.

Sir Ian, creator of Detective Inspector John Rebus, donated his archive to the library in 2019 and also paid for a post to catalogue the collection.

Since then, the library in Edinburgh has made most of the archive available for consultation at the reading rooms.

The forthcoming ‘Collections In Focus’ display will give a flavour of what is in the archive, with items such as the first draft of the novel Black And Blue and Sir Ian’s thesis proposal from 1983 going on show.

The sense of place he has created is profound

Manuscripts curator Dr Colin McIlroy said: “For more than 30 years Detective Inspector Rebus and other recurring major characters have captured the minds of millions around the world. Rankin enjoys a loyal following of people who are in love with his version of Edinburgh.

“The sense of place he has created is profound – anecdotally, we know many readers feel they have an intimate knowledge of the city without ever having been here.

“The world of Rebus and other characters had their genesis in the library’s reading rooms and it makes it all the more fitting – and thrilling – that documents chronicling decades of this writer’s thought processes are back home at the library.

“We look forward to sharing some of the highlights on display.”

The library itself has appeared in the novels with the maverick detective visiting the institution while researching cases, while its underground corridors featured in the first Rebus novel Knots And Crosses.

Other items going on display in The Rankin Files exhibition include Sir Ian’s National Library of Scotland reader’s card, the original manuscript of Knots And Crosses, dated 1985, and the original manuscript in typescript form of In A House Of Lies, from 2018.

The archive takes up 21ft of shelving and includes Sir Ian’s correspondence with other writers and police officers.

Describing the archive, Dr McIlroy said: “It contains what people would typically expect – drafts of novels with handwritten notes to help guide the next draft. But it also includes the unexpected, such as highly critical notes to self.

“We’re truly indebted to Ian for including this oftentimes personal material. Emerging writers should take note and comfort that – even for successful authors – the writing process invariably involves a degree of internal struggle and self-criticism.

“But from this it compels a writer to push themselves further. Where Rankin is concerned, the results speak for themselves.”

The exhibition, which will be free to enter, opens on Friday October 14 and runs until April 29 2023, at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.

The library will host an event with Ian Rankin on November 24 at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, which will be live-streamed via YouTube.

Tickets for this in-person event will be made available from October 13 via Eventbrite.

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