The manuscript of Knots & Crosses, 1985.

Ian Rankin gifts archive to the nation

The UK’s biggest-selling crime novelist, Ian Rankin, has donated his literary archive to the National Library of Scotland.

Often cited as the ‘godfather of tartan noir’, Ian Rankin’s work has resonated with millions throughout the world – with his novels translated into 36 languages.

Totalling around 50 boxes of material, which in shelving terms is more than 21 feet, the archive includes typescripts of manuscripts with handwritten annotations and notes by the author. Also included is correspondence with literary figures such as J.K. Rowling, Iain Banks, Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid and Jilly Cooper, as well as figures from across the political and cultural spectrum. Not surprisingly, police officers feature regularly in correspondence.

Described by Rankin as “a pretty complete author’s life, late-20th century-style”, the archive material dates from 1972–2018.

National Librarian Dr John Scally welcomed Ian Rankin to the Library today. He said:

“Ian Rankin is a well-known face to us here at the National Library. We knew him when he was researching Muriel Spark as part of his PhD, and we knew him when he penned his first novels here in our very reading rooms. Little did we know then just how successful he was to become, and that in time, his archive would be as gratefully received as Spark’s. It will be preserved into perpetuity alongside other Scottish literary giants.

“Rankin’s main protagonist, John Rebus, has walked George IV Bridge many times, and frequently visited this very Library while researching cases. We are honoured to be a character in the Rebus novels alongside the city of Edinburgh, and we feel this is the rightful home for Ian’s archive. Because of his generosity, readers will be able to gain insight into the creative process of this wonderful writer.”

Ian Rankin said:

“I remember that in my first week as a postgraduate student we were given a tour of the National Library of Scotland, including access to the basement levels. Those vaulted underground corridors would reappear in the climactic scenes of my first Rebus novel. The Library has seemed like a friend ever since, so it seems fitting – as well as a thrill and an honour – that my archive should find a permanent home there.”

The National Library also announced that it will recruit a curator to catalogue and promote the Ian Rankin archive.

Dr Scally added:

“This is a comprehensive, fascinating, in-depth archive, spanning several decades. It is rich in detail – all of which will become fully apparent as the curator works through the archive. We must thank Ian for making a substantial donation towards the creation of this post. This means we will soon be able to open up the archive to all.”

The curator post is also made possible through generous donations from The W M Mann Foundation and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Contact Information

Barbara Burke

National Library of Scotland

+44131 623 3738

+447904 791002

Notes to editors

Images of Ian Rankin and the National Librarian will be sent to newsdesks at approximately midday, 23 May.


  • The National Library of Scotland celebrated 20 years of Ian Rankin’s alter ego with the Rebus20 exhibition in 2007, the first time a contemporary author was honoured in this way by the Library.
  • The first Rebus novel Knots & Crosses was published in 1987 when crime had a small niche market and authors like Colin Dexter and Ruth Rendell were the top sellers.
  • The big breakthrough novel was Black and Blue in 1997, which won the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction – the highest accolade in UK Crime Writing. Ian has also won similar prizes in the US, including the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
  • Black and Blue is a school syllabus novel.
  • Rankin’s books have revolutionised the way crime titles are published. Ian has been credited with establishing the ‘literary crime novel’ in the minds of the UK book-buying public, thus giving greater credibility to the genre.
  • Rankin is a No 1 Sunday Times bestseller and a Guardian Fastseller (the bestselling books of the year, published every January), and the UK’s number one crime writer (based on sales, not hype).
  • His book sales account for 10 per cent of all UK crime sales (2003).
  • He is the UK’s most high-profile crime writer – regularly on TV and radio. He has been on Desert Island Discs is a regular presenter on BBC Radio Scotland, has had a South Bank Show devoted to him and regularly appears on Newsnight Review.
  • His website,, receives more than 40,000 hits a month – it is one of the industry’s best and most visited author sites.
  • He is published all over the world, but also has massive export sales (50 per cent of the hits on his website are from abroad).
  • Total UK sales to date is almost 20 million copies.
  • The Rebus TV series was the biggest TV ‘debut’ of 2006; nine million people watched it.
  • In 2017 Rebus had an entire literary festival dedicated to him: RebusFest, which celebrated 30 years of the character in fiction.
  • Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus thriller, In a House of Lies, went straight to Number 1 in the fiction hardback category on The Sunday Times bestseller list. The paperback will be published on 30 May 2019.

The National Library of Scotland

The National Library is a major European research library and one of the world’s leading centres for the study of Scotland and the Scots – an information treasure trove for Scotland’s knowledge, history and culture.

The Library holds more than 29 million physical items dating back over 1000 years in addition to a growing library of e-books, e-journals and other digital material. Every week the Library collects around 3,000 new items. Most of these are received free of charge in terms of Legal Deposit legislation. / @natlibscot / facebook