The Pennine Way Companion was published in June 1968 and Wainwright dedicated it to:
“THE ONE WHO HELPED MOST OF ALL”
The full story behind this guide is quite complex and does not necessarily fit in with the focus of this article, which covers the publishing and printing history. However, there are certain aspects of the story that do need addressing. Wainwight’s dislike for the Pennine Way being one of them.
Wainwright had always been associated with the Lake District, but his connection with the backbone of northern England was just as strong. His 1938 circular walk, Pennine Journey, from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall covered much of this region. So, when Wainwright eventually began work on the Pennine Way Companion, he was no stranger to this wild landscape.
The Pennine Way is a 268-mile walk across half of England to the Scottish borders. It was the brainchild of Journalist and rambler, Tom Stephenson. He first proposed the trail back in 1935, and after much lobbying, the Pennine Way officially opened on April 24, 1965, making it England’s first official National Trail. A ceremony to celebrate this occasion was held on Malham Moor.
Despite Wainwright not altogether agreeing with the starting point in Edale and its terminus at Kirk Yetholm, it is quite clear he had immense admiration for what Tom Stephenson achieved. This inspired Wainwright to create his own long distance walk just a few years later.
Wainwright called upon a team of four gentleman who helped with the field work. Their tasks began in May 1965, and each collaborator covered an allocated section of the route, which had to be completed before the end of the year. Wainwright then spent the following year, from Easter 1966 through to late 1967, walking each section in stages, double-checking everything as he went.
The guide is written in a very unorthodox, but clever way. You start from the back of the book and work your way to the front. In addition, each page is read from the bottom up. It does take some time to become accustomed to the design, but it works perfectly and soon becomes second nature. It feels natural using the guide to follow the route as intended from South to North or vice versa.
Studying Wainwright’s guides has taught me that not everything he wrote should be taken at face value. For example, his sense of humour could always be interpreted in more than one way. He was quite a complex character, and I doubt whether anyone ever really knew him.
Wainwright was very direct with how he felt about his experience on the Pennine Way. The weather was terrible, with driving rain for days on end. He was stuck in a bog on the summit of Black Hill and was fed up with the many miles of featureless moorland. That alone is enough to put anyone off.
Did Wainwright’s dislike of the Pennine Way simply stem from his experience on it? On the surface it appears so, but if we dig a little deeper, we discover that he was going through a very uncomfortable period in his life. His relationship with Betty McNally was developing towards the end of 1965. The following year, Ruth walked out of his life and began divorce proceedings against him. At one stage he spoke about scrapping the book altogether, so we know things weren’t looking good.
The lives of authors often reflect in their writing at any given moment in their life, and maybe Wainwright was no exception. Did his experience on the Pennine Way, combined with his life at the time, translate into his writing? Who knows, but I believe there is a strong case for this argument.
We will never really know for sure, and perhaps he meant exactly what he said in his closing comment, “You won’t come across me anywhere along the Pennine Way. I’ve had enough of it.”
Wainwright had much to thank Betty for during the time he spent researching the route. She owned a car and could assist by taking him to the hard-to-reach locations on the trail. This opened up a whole new world for Wainwright, enabling him to focus on projects beyond the confinements of the Cumbrian border. As a thank you, he dedicated the Pennine Way Companion to her.
The guide was a huge success for the Westmorland Gazette, and by the mid-1980s it had sold more copies than some of the earlier Lakeland Pictorial Guides. An incredible achievement.
A First Edition is identified by:
- Turquoise case with round corners and gilt lettering
- 18/- price on the dust jacket
- No impression number
In the mid to late 1970’s, the Gazette slowly moved away from Letterpress printing and invested in new offset litho technology. This improved quality and reduced print time. Presented here are the original negatives photographed directly from Wainwright original pages. Two separate negatives were produced, each with 16 images. The finished printed sheets were then guillotined ready for folding.
This guide was the first to launch with an 18/- price printed on the dust jacket. The other Pictorial Guides prices received an 18/- sticker, which was placed over the old price until new dust jackets were printed with the new price of 18/- 90p.
The job of price clipping or applying new stickers, was taken care of by Tommy Fellowes. He’d been the storeman at the Westmorland Gazette since the 1960s. As well as packing all book orders, he’d clipped and stickered thousands of dust jackets by the time he retired in the 1980s.
Before the end of 1970, the case corners were all squared. This saved time and money during production. The turquoise (Betty’s favourite colour) case would change to blue. Decimalisation was also upon us, and in 1971 the price of the Pennine Way Companion increased to £1.05. All the other Pictorial Guides remained at 90p
Material shortages in the early 1970s affected all Wainwright books. The Pennine Way Companion went from blue to yellow, and for the next few years the guide went through a vast array of different coloured cases.
Dust jackets negatives were used for many years. Old prices were cut out and replaced or masked out completely. Presented here are a sample of dust jackets that survived the intervening years in storage.
The route of the Pennine Way has changed over the years. Despite the many path improvements, erosion has been a contributing factor. Landowners have also requested route changes. There have been diversions to include better scenery etc. The guide has received multiple revisions during its lifetime, which reflect the many route changes.
Presented here are a couple of examples when the guide caused concern. The first letter refers to a complaint made to the Gazette concerning a remark made by Wainwright in the guide. There was threat of action against the publisher, but nothing came of it. Whatever the circumstances, there was clearly no case. The description in question remained in the guide for another twenty years before it was updated.
The second letter is from the Peak District National Park politely suggesting a minor route alteration to keep walkers safe during shooting days. Wainwright kindly acknowledged their concern and agreed. He amended the page accordingly, and about three years later the changes were reflected in the 64th impression.
During this period, many guides that shared the same impression number were bound with different case types. Some case materials were in short supply, so alternatives were used. Presented here are two ‘Fifty-ninth’ impression guides from 1979, each with different cases.
The early 1980s saw many changes for the guides. The gold blocking was removed from the front of the case, and the impression numbers were dropped. This saved time and money. The Pennine Way Companion had reached a staggering 86 impressions before they were removed. This highlighted the popularity of the Pennine Way, twenty years after its official opening.
The new Wainwright BBC TV series first aired in the North East during the Autumn of 1985. Its national debut was on May 12, 1986. A programme dedicated to the Pennine Way was part of the series, so stock levels of this title and others at the Gazette were increased to meet the expected demand.
The Gazette no longer printed the Wainwright books after 1987. They offered local printer Titus Wilson a four-year printing contract between 1988 and 1991.
Following the death of Wainwright in 1991, plans were being made for the book publishing to be transferred to Michael Joseph. By the Autumn of 1991 everything was complete. Presented here is the final Gazette order for the Pennine Way Companion.
Andrew Nichol, the Manager of General Printing & Book Publishing, would sign off all orders. The invoice for this order was paid shortly before all publishing rights were transferred to Michael Joseph.
In preparation for the new book launch in the Spring of 1992, all new guidebook design instructions were forwarded to David Rigg, owner of Titus Wilson and Dixon Print. Chris Jesty, who later revised the guides, handwrote the introductory prelim pages for the new Michael Joseph guides.
The original Gazette negatives were used to print the new Michael Joseph guides. The old prelims and introductory pages were swapped out where necessary to reflect the new publisher. The original prelims were retained.
The Pennine Way Companion dust jacket negatives produced by the Gazette were now obsolete, and new ones were produced by Titus Wilson. Presented here are the negatives that were used to produce the Michael Joseph dust jacket.
Michael Joseph’s new book launch was a success, but shortly after, the guidebook printing was transferred to Clays Ltd in Suffolk. This was very disappointing news for Kendal and was purely a business decision. Michael Joseph did not receive the original negatives; they were given second generation duplicates. The original materials were not leaving Kendal under any circumstances.
By now, all the guides were in desperate need of revising. Wainwright had given Chris Jesty his blessing to revise the guides, but only after his death. Unfortunately, Michael Joseph weren’t in favour of any guidebook revisions which greatly disappointed Chris.
However, it was clear that some route changes in the Pennine Way Companion were unavoidable. Chris was authorised to proceed with these minor alterations, and the new Revised Edition was published in 1994. There was a reprint three years later, and the trademark yellow pages were now replaced with white paper to match the rest of the guide.
Michael Joseph kept guidebook price increases to a minimum. The 1992 launch guide retailed at £8.99, and the 1994/7 revisions were both priced £9.99.
Chris was never really satisfied with the Michael Joseph revisions. He wanted to produce a thorough handwritten revision matching Wainwright’s original work as close as possible. The minor revisions produced for the 1994 guide were typeset and didn’t merge well with Wainwright’s organic handwriting.
In February 1992, Michael Joseph were invoiced for 8,500 copies of the Pennine Way Companion. This is the only guide that never returned home to Kendal. It’s hard to believe it has been thirty years since it left, never to be seen again.
Michael Joseph ceased publication of the guidebooks in January 2003. Less than a month later, Frances Lincoln won the bid to republish them again. The return of Wainwright’s works of art to their rightful home in Kendal was a special occasion. Unfortunately, The Pennine Way Companion would not be amongst them.
For reasons unknown, it was reprinted in Singapore in May 2004. It was the same revised guide that Chris Jesty worked on, but the Revised Edition part of the title was removed from the guide. It was reprinted in Thailand in 2007 and finally in 2009.
There were some additional price increases from Frances Lincoln. The 2004 guide retailed at £11.99 on launch. The 2007 and 2009 guides were priced £12.99 and £13.99 respectively. It became available once again as part of a large clothbound boxset, also published in 2009.
For some reason the sales figures for this guide were waning. Both Michael Joseph and Frances Lincoln only managed three impressions each. Was this an indication that the Pennine Way itself was becoming unpopular?
Fortunately, Frances Lincoln were in full support of the guidebook revisions. Chris Jesty was delighted with this news, and he dedicated the next ten years of his life delicately revising them all. He was very meticulous, and respected Wainwright’s original work, making changes only where necessary.
Chris began the field work for the Pennine Way Companion – Second Edition in May 2010. After spending many months on this iconic trail, the revisions were finally completed in January 2012.
In recent years, the sales of the Pennine Way Companion have undeniably plummeted. You could say it’s shared the same ups and downs as the Pennine Way itself, with regards to its popularity.
In the past, the Pennine Way had a bad reputation for its many peat bogs, driving rain and mile after mile of wet and dreary moorland. This wasn’t enough to detract people from attempting the walk, and many accepted the challenge. In addition, the free beer on behalf of Wainwright, as a reward for completing the walk was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I think the Pennine Way is just as good, if not better than it’s ever been. The paths are vastly improved, and we have more accommodation options. This is just my opinion, but if fewer people are walking it today, maybe it’s because there are so many new National Trails to choose from, and the Pennine Way gets lost in the mix. This is a huge topic itself, and one to address in a separate blog.
My wife and I completed the Pennine Way in 2013, and we were won over by this trail. Traversing through the numerous iconic and spectacular locations were an absolute joy. The solitude of the many moorland sections were a great escape from civilization, and you really felt at one with nature. The problems of everyday life just seemed to dissolve away. For those who have not yet walked the Pennine Way, I cannot recommend it enough. The exhilarating experience will leave a positive mark that will resonate with you for the rest of your life.Back to top of page