Buchan apprenticed with a Jack-of-all-trades, and in 1814 produced his first book, a collection of verse which failed to be taken notice of. As his hometown lacked any printer shops, and in 1816, Buchan went to Stirling to learn the printing process, becoming proficient enough to produce samples within a matter of ten days.
In the early years of business, he printed a series of chapbooks. He also invented his own printing press named the "Auchmedden", a pedal-operated devise that accepted stone, copper, as well as type surfaces for printing. His The Annals of Peterhead (1819) had copper-plate illustrations which he himself engraved. Scarce Ancient Ballads (1819), Gleanings of Scarce Old Ballads (1825) were early publications that foreshadowed what would be his lifelong interest.
After this he held a position in London from which drew a £150 annual income, but having compromised his health, he retired to Peterhead and devoted himself to the collection of Scottish ballads from oral sources, and their publication. His Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (1828) contained a large number of hitherto unpublished ballads, and newly discovered versions of existing ones.
Another collection made by him was published by the Percy Society, under the title Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads (1845). Two unpublished volumes of Buchan's ballad collections are in the British Museum.
Buchan also compiled a collection of folktales, and his manuscripts were known to John Francis Campbell who discussed them in his Popular Tales of the West Highlands. Buchan's folktales were later published as Ancient Scottish Tales (1908)
Buchan was an early animal rights writer. In 1824, he authored a book that argued that animals have souls and are immortal. Buchan argued that God must recompense the "undeserved pain" of animals by appointing them a "future state".
- The Annals of Peterhead (1819)
- Scarce Ancient Ballads (1819)
- Scriptural & Philosophical Arguments; or Cogent Proofs From Reason & Revelation that Brutes Have Souls; and That Their Souls are Immortal (1824)
- Gleanings of Scarce Old Ballads (1825)
- Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (1828)
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 714.
- Shoolbraid 2010, pp. 1–3
- Buchan 1908, Ancient Scottish Tales
- Perkins, David (1999). "Sweet Helpston! John Clare on Badger Baiting". Studies in Romanticism. 38 (3): 387–407. doi:10.2307/25601401. JSTOR 25601401.
- Perkins, David. (2003). Romanticism and Animal Rights. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0-521-82941-0
- Buchan, Peter (1908), John A. Fairley, "Paper on 'Ancient Scottish Tales — an unpublished collection made by Peter Buchan'" (snippet), Transactions of the Buchan Field Club, 9
- Buchan, Peter (1908), Ancient Scottish Tales, John A. Fairley (intro.), Peterhead (Reprint)
- Shoolbraid, Murray (2 April 2010), The high-kilted muse: Peter Buchan and his Secret songs of silence, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2010, ISBN 978-1604734317