He apprenticed with a Jack-of-all-trades, and in 1814 produced his first book, a collection of verse which failed to be taken notice. As his hometown lacked any printer shops, and in 1816, Peter went to Stirling to learn the printing process, becoming proficient enough to produce samples within a matter of ten days. He established business as a printer in Peterhead in March 1816, the support of the Earl of Buchan who recommended a friend to fund the purchase of the press.
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 His Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (1828) contained a large number of hitherto unpublished ballads, and newly discovered versions of existing ones.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 Two unpublished volumes of Buchan's ballad collections are in the British Museum.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 had 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)
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Buchan, Peter.|
- Buchan, Peter (1908), John A. Fairley, "Paper on 'Ancient Scottish Tales — an unpublished collection made by Peter Buchan'" (snippet), Transactions of the Buchan Field Club, 9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, The high-kilted muse: Peter Buchan and his Secret songs of silence, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2010, ISBN 1604734310
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