John Buchan started 'The thirty-nine steps' while he was unwell in bed during the early months of the First World War.
The book was a different style from Buchan's previous work. On show in the Library's display was a letter Buchan wrote to his publisher, George Blackwood:
'I have amused myself in bed writing a shocker […]. It has amused me to write, but whether it will amuse you to read is another matter.'
Early titles considered for 'The thirty-nine steps' included 'The black stone' and 'The kennels of war'.
Serialising the story
In July 1915, the story appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine' under a pseudonym. It was published as a novel in October that same year.
The book sold 33,000 copies in the first three months of publication, and has remained in print ever since.
The Library's display included items relating to the novel's origins and regions of the Scottish Borders where the action takes place, including:
- 'Highways and byways in the Borders', 1913
- 'Tours in Galloway', 1914
- 'The enemy in our midst', 1906: a typical anti-German propaganda novel.
These items featured in our display, 'The thirty-nine steps', at the Library from 10 September to 22 November 2015.