Printing reached Scotland from France in the early 16th Century but no records exist of it being recorded in the south west of the country until the 1780s when Peter McArthur introduced it to Kilmarnock. He was succeeded by John Wilson who was responsible for printing the first edition of 'Burns' Poetry' (one of the first ever books printed in Ayrshire). John Wilson also introduced printing to Ayr under the firm 'John and Peter Wilson'. Soon other towns in Ayrshire followed, with Irvine and Beith opening their own print shops. Before 1780, however, the closest printing press had been in Glasgow and even the availability of printed literature was not easy.

Printing could be a risky business in the early days; expressing your opinion in printed form was widely frowned upon by the establishment and newspaper printers especially, ran the risk of imprisonment and expensive stamp duties. This environment meant that the majority of inhabitants of the region were fairly ignorant towards events outside their own area. The society for the most part was rural and very religious and the only book which most households held was the Bible. With the advent of local printing presses, however, books and newspapers became far more commonplace with stories of the Covenanting Times, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace being popular, alongside more religious works such as 'Pilgrim's Progress' and the works of John Knox. Increased literacy and wider prosperity meant an increased demand for printed material and a new thriving printing industry in the area.

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