Ian Rankin Literary Archive on View in Edinburgh

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin donated his literary archive to the National Library of Scotland in 2019.

Selections from the papers of Ian Rankin, Scotland’s best known contemporary crime writer, are now on view at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh. In the aptly named exhibition, The Rankin Files, some of the author’s manuscripts and letters can be seen in public for the first time.

Rankin, winner of an Edgar Award and the recipient of a Gold Dagger for fiction, has just published A Heart Full of Headstones, his 32nd novel and the 24th to feature the now iconic Detective Inspector John Rebus. The author donated his literary archive to the NLS in 2019.

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

On display: notes on Knots and Crosses (1987), the first of the Inspector Rebus novels.

“The size of the archive is substantial – in Library shelving terms it equates to 21 feet of archival material. Alongside working drafts of his novels, the archive also contains Rankin’s correspondence with other writers, and unsurprisingly, correspondence with police officers…. As a whole, the archive provides tremendous insight into the working mind of a novelist, from early career to the top of their game,” said manuscripts curator Dr. Colin McIlroy.

Highlights of the current exhibition include the manuscript draft of Black and Blue, Rankin’s 1997 breakthrough novel; Rankin’s PhD thesis proposal on fellow Scottish author Muriel Spark; and the only copy of a self-printed poetry collection called Incidental Music. Intriguingly, fans can also get a peek at the manuscript of “Summer Rites,” a dark comedy Rankin wrote in 1983 which remains unpublished. According to the NLS, his wife Miranda describes it as his best book.   

The Rankin Files remains on view through April 29.