A Lakeland Sketchbook

Wainwright concluded his tenure as Borough Treasurer of Kendal in 1967, ushering in a new chapter of life that allowed him to devote himself entirely to his true passions: walking and writing books. In the closing remarks of his last Lakeland guidebook, The Western Fells, he contemplated the prospect of creating a captivating series of books showcasing the beauty of Lakeland through imagery. These personal notes hinted at Wainwright’s envisioning of a visual journey, capturing the essence of Lakeland’s finest landscapes through the lens of his artistic appreciation.

Two years after his retirement, the initial instalment of a planned quintet emerged in September 1969 under the title A Lakeland Sketchbook. Comprising 80 pen and ink drawings, this book showcased a visual anthology of Lakeland scenes. Although presumed to be creations from that post-retirement phase, it was revealed that some drawings had origins dating back to the 1940s. Notably, I have acquired four original drawings from 1944, with one of them later featured in A Fifth Lakeland Sketchbook.

Cumbria magazine October 1969

There is compelling evidence indicating that Wainwright initiated the creation of drawings for the first Lakeland Sketchbook several years prior. Notably, select drawings from this early phase found their way into the public eye, appearing in Cumbria in May 1966.

Wainwright often employed artistic license in his drawings, demonstrating creative flexibility. One illustrative technique involved adding elements like a tree branch to fill vacant spaces within a scene. Several original drawings exhibit corrections made with Tipex, addressing errors that had surfaced during the creative process. Furthermore, Tipex served a dual purpose, as Wainwright occasionally wielded it to rectify stains resulting from the fallout of tobacco from his pipe.

First Edition is identified by:

  1. Green cloth case with gold blocking
  2. 18/- price on the dust jacket
  3. Walks in Limestone Country listed as – In preparation
In preparation helps identify a First Edition
A Lakeland Sketchbook
A green clothbound case on its own does not necessarily identify a First Edition
A Lakeland Sketchbook
Beware! A second impression is a thinner book priced £1.05p 21/-

The original drawings for this particular work were generously donated to the Kendal Branch of the ‘Save The Children Fund’ and displayed at Abbot Hall, Kendal, during the early days of December. Each first edition of A Lakeland Sketchbook was accompanied by a leaflet, allowing the owner to acquire an original sketch from the collection. Remarkably, the demand was so overwhelming that the available drawings were swiftly sold out within a matter of days after the publication. The scale of interest was evident, with over 1,000 letters and inquiries flooding in from disappointed individuals who were unable to secure their desired sketches.

Original sketchbook drawing offer
Did you reserve a drawing?

Sketchbook cases exhibited various colours and styles in the 1970s. Examples ranged from vibrant bright yellow to an assortment of green shades. This case (below), dating back to 1972, features a distinctive yellow mustard colour. Notably, during this era, these sketchbook cases were priced at £1.40, mirroring the cost of the accompanying guides. It’s worth mentioning that around 1980, a notable change occurred as the gold blocking on the front of the books was discontinued.

A Lakeland Sketchbook
A later print from 1972
The Lesser Fells of Lakeland was an early working title of The Outlying Fells of Lakeland
The original gold blocking (image mirrored)
The original Dove Crag drawing was also featured in The Westmorland Gazette’s 1987 Lakeland calendar

In 2004, Frances Lincoln released a box set comprising all five sketchbooks, marking their return to print after a hiatus since 1991. Despite the anticipation, the sales of the Frances Lincoln sketchbooks fell short of expectations. As a result, individual copies of these books can still be readily found in numerous bookshops throughout Cumbria. Regrettably, the box sets have become harder to find.

A Lakeland Sketchbook
An early 1980s print and Frances Lincoln’s 2004 publication

In 1991, before the Gazette discontinued the publication of Wainwright books, the Henry Roberts bookshop chain owner in Cumbria made a substantial purchase of their remaining stock. Simultaneously, the new publisher, Michael Joseph, acquired the remainder of the stock and affixed their name with a sticker on the back of the Gazette’s sketchbooks. Remarkably, even after three decades, Henry Roberts of Ambleside continues to offer the original sketchbook stock they obtained during that significant acquisition.

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