Learn about the creative processes used by Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray, using sources from the Gray archive.

Here we provide a brief biography and information about the Alasdair Gray archive at NLS. Learners of all ages can use the suggested activities focusing on art and creative writing.

Alasdair Gray's creative process

You can explore seven archive items which highlight different aspects of Alasdair Gray's creative process. Sources 1, 2 and 7 are examples of how he approaches illustrating text, and sources 3, 4, 5 and 6 highlight his process of writing and editing.


Based in Glasgow, Alasdair Gray (born 1934) is a Scottish novelist, playwright, poet, painter and illustrator. His most famous novel, 'Lanark' was developed over a period of almost 30 years, and was published by Canongate Press in 1981. 

During his career, he has also written for stage, radio, and television.  As well as painting large-scale murals and stage sets, he also illustrates his own books and takes an active part in the design, layout, and typography of his published works.

His literary and artistic talents are often combined in single works, making him a fascinating subject for anyone interested in Scottish literature, and visual art and design.

The Alasdair Gray archive at the National Library

Alasdair Gray's archive is held in the Library's manuscript collections, and includes original artwork for 'Lanark', 'Unlikely Stories, Mostly', '1982, Janine' and 'Lean Tales'.

Writing and editing
Anyone interested in Gray's methods of writing and editing can access hand-written manuscripts, typescripts, research material, and correspondence relating to specific novels, such as 'Poor Things' published by Bloomsbury in 1992. 

The archive also contains eight ledgers, dating from the early 1970s to 2008, which Gray used to record ideas and drafts of stories, poems, plays and novels, and which also feature diary entries and longhand copies of letters. 

One of the most unusual items in the archive is a thesis which Alasdair Gray produced when training to be an art teacher. It focuses on the development of visual and spatial awareness in young children, and is illustrated with children's paintings.


With thanks to Alasdair Gray.

The following images were reproduced with kind permission of the publisher:

'The Problem', from 'Unlikely Stories, Mostly' by Alasdair Gray, first published in Great Britain by Canongate Books Ltts, 14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TE.

Hillhead, Glasgow, from 'Old Men in Love' by Alasdair Gray, first published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury.

Images of proof and manuscript of 'Lanark' are reproduced by permission of Glasgow University and Canongate Books.


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