Highlights from Ian Rankin's literary archive to go on public display in Edinburgh

A treasure trove devoted to celebrated crime writer Ian Rankin is to be showcased for the first time since he donated his vast literary archive to the National Library of Scotland.

Highlights drawn from more than 75 boxes of personal material spanning five decades of the author’s life will be put on display at the library in Edinburgh later this month.

Manuscripts from an unpublished first novel, Summer Rites, his debut novel The Flood and the first Rebus thriller Knots and Crosses can be seen in the exhibition, which will run from October 14 until April 29.

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Other highlights include hand-written notes, awards, publicity photographs, press cuttings and poems written by Rankin, who has been a regular visitor to the National Library since he was a student in the city.

Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, holding his 1984 manuscript for his first published novel Flood, with some of the 50 boxes of his own personal archive which he is donating to the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh (SWNS)
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The displays of what the National Library describes as “The Rankin Files” have been announced more than three years after it emerged the library would become a permanent home to the collection.

Rankin also helped pay for an archivist to catalogue more than 3,000 individual items, which he described as “a pretty complete author’s life, late 20th-century style.”

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He said previously: “You can definitely see a real progression from when I first came to Edinburgh and was only writing poems, to writing for the student newspaper, reviewing events at the book festival, writing short stories, winning a few prizes, and getting the first novel published and then making a real go of it as a full-time writer.”

The selection of material, which features the author’s own critiques of his work, being showcased includes Rolling Stones records which influenced the writer, Rankin’s proposal for his PhD on the fellow Edinburgh author Muriel Spark, his “big book of ideas”, and a first draft of the novel Black and Blue, the eighth Rebus novel, which was awarded the Gold Dagger prize by the Crime Writers’ Association.

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Also featured will be a Radio Forth short story award presented to the author by actor Peter Ustinov in 1984, the order of service for the funeral of fellow crime writer William McIlvanney in 2015 and a newspaper article reporting on Rankin meeting Spark.

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Dr Colin McIlroy, manuscripts curator at the National Library, said: “Ian 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.

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“The world of Rebus and other characters had their genesis in our 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 National Library.

The first Inspector Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, was published in 1987.

“The archive 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 often-times 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.”

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Ian Rankin won the coveted "Gold Dagger" crime fiction prize in 1997.
The manuscript for Ian Rankin's 1997 Rebus novel Black and Blue will be going on display at the National Library of Scotland.
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Ian Rankin announcing he was donating his literary archive to the National Library of Scotland in 2019. Picture: Neil Hanna

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