Welcome to
Burns Country - Home
Search This Site

Everything you wanted to know about Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard (and lots more besides). Please let us know if anything's missing, wrong, or just plain wonderful

Burns Country Collage

Words | Karaoke!

Burns Shop
Poems and Songs
Burns Encyclopaedia
Burns Suppers
Burns Cottage and Park
Burns in English
Burns Chess Set
Burns Links
Scotweb Mall
robert burns store
View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products.

Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.

Contact us:

The Burns Encyclopedia
Home | Introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Wilson. John (1759 — 1821)

Born in Kilmarnock, John Wilson, along with his brother Peter, founded the earliest Ayrshire newspaper, the Ayr Advertiser. They also carried on business as printers and publishers, specialising in editions of the classics. Wilson published the poems of John Lapraik, Burns's friend; but it was his earlier venture, the first edition of Burns's Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published from his press situated probably in the Star Inn Close (now demolished), which brought him fame.

It is not known how Burns got in touch with Wilson, though doubtless the poet had many Kilmarnock friends who would have introduced him to the printer. On 17th April 1786 there appeared:

'Proposals for Publishing by subscription,

Scottish Poems by Robert Burns

'The work to be elegantly printed, in one volume, octavo. Price, stitched, three shillings. As the author has not the most distant mercenary view in publishing, as soon as so many subscribers appear as will defray the necessary expense, the work will be sent to the press.'

After a quotation from Ramsay, came the undertaking: 'We, the undersubscribers, engage to take the above-mentioned work on the conditions specified.'

The subscribers who assured the success of the venture were not so much the purchasers of single copies (the poet himself took three), but friends of Burns such as the Ayr attorney McWhinnie, who took twenty copies; John Kennedy of Dumfries House, near Cumnock, who took another twenty copies; John Logan of Knockshinnoch, who also took twenty, 'Orator Bob' Aitken, with his hundred and forty five subscriptions; Robert Muir of Kilmarnock, with his seventy copies; Gavin Hamilton who took forty copies and Gilbert, the poet's brother, who, like Wilson himself, disposed of seventy copies.

The actual work of printing began on 13th July, and on 31st July, the edition of six hundred and twelve copies was ready for distribution. The book, costing three shillings per copy, sold far beyond the list of three hundred and fifty advance subscribers. By 28th August, Wilson had only thirteen copies left. In October, the cautious Wilson offered to print a second edition of a thousand copies, but required Burns to pay about twenty-seven pounds for the paper and fifteen or sixteen pounds for the printing, which Burns was unable to do. Wilson's timidity thus in a sense drove Burns from a local to a national publisher for his next edition. So far as can be ascertained, the receipts totalled about £90. Wilson's note of the cost of production brings the amount spent to thirty-five pounds seventeen shillings, which should have left Burns about fifty-four pounds. Burns, however, stated that the venture only brought in about twenty pounds.

Wilson prospered, became a magistrate and left money which for many years provided local bursaries for poor children. He was buried in Kilmarnock.

Buy the Burns Encyclopedia online
Home | Introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Robert Burns Store

NEW!! robert burns store View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products. Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.Click here...

Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...

Burns Music & Recordings
Search our huge CD and music store for any Burns-related phrase!
Hint: Type "lang syne" or "peck maut" etc. into the Search box there for all artists, titles, descriptions or track listings with the words entered.
CLAN by Scotweb

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...