One of a Kind Guidebook

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Post by Chris Butterfield.

I initially started collecting the Wainwright guidebooks about four years ago and it has been a fascinating voyage of discovery. I have been intrigued by all the different variations and editions, and the changes that have taken place throughout the guidebook’ printing history. My collection has now reached over two thousand books, and I thought I had seen everything. I was wrong.

Recently, I hit a milestone with The Outlying Fells of Lakeland guides. I had acquired every impression from all publishers in marvellous condition, which took years to complete. It is the only collection of its kind.

Shortly after revealing the collection on social media, I received a call from a lady who worked at the Westmorland Gazette decades ago. Her name was Georgina Cooke, and she was the publishing order clerk from 1973 to 1989. She had lived in Kendal with her husband David for many years. She was impressed with my Outlying Fells book collection but informed me that it was incomplete.

“Really?” I responded.

“Yes” she replied. “I have a fourteenth impression paperback here, which I have had in my possession for nearly forty-five years.”

“Surely you are mistaken?”

“Certainly not! I will send you a photograph of it.”

My eyes lit up when I opened the email. Wow, she was right! Georgina now had my full attention, and I was totally transfixed as I listened to her story.

Two Fourteenth Impressions of The Outlying Fells of Lakeland guide from 1975

In 1975, the Gazette were trying to cut printing costs. Harry Firth, the general printing manager at the time, had just printed the fourteenth impression of The Outlying Fells of Lakeland. Before they were bound, he produced two in paperback. His thinking was that the Outlying Fells were relatively low in height, so a paperback would easily survive the ordeals of a hike on those hills. The seven Lakeland guides would remain as hardbacks, for obvious reasons.

At this point in time, the Gazette did not own the copyright to the guides, so any alterations would require Wainwright’s approval. Harry took a copy with him on one of his regular visits to Kendal Green. Wainwright did not like it and insisted the title remained casebound.

Wainwright’s word was final, so when Harry returned to the office, he offered a copy to Georgina, and the other one was binned. Georgina kept her copy for years and had almost forgotten about it until she read the blog about my collection.

Georgina and her husband now live in Bingley, and kindly invited my wife and myself to meet them and see the book. Although I knew everything was true, you never really believe it until you see it. Was I really holding one of the rarest pictorial guides that exists? There is only one copy.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with Georgina and David. It was good to hear tales from her Gazette years during the 1970s, when Wainwright was in the shadows and did little publicity.

Before we left, Georgina pressed the book into my hands, and insisted I add the book to my archive. She would not take no for an answer. I was overjoyed and could not thank her enough.

This unique one-of-a-kind guide adds yet another layer to the publishing and printing side of Wainwright’s work, which has become my primary focus over the last few years. Just when I think I know everything about a particular title, something like this comes along and changes everything.

I often wonder what other pictorial guide stories are out there, just waiting to be uncovered.

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