The North Western Fells

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The North Western Fells was published in March 1964 and Wainwright dedicated it to:

Those unlovely twins MY RIGHT LEG and MY LEFT LEG, staunch supporters that have carried me about for over half a century, enduring much without complaint and never once let me down

Wainwright’s disciples were waiting impatiently for the next book in the series. Cumbria magazine was being bombarded with fan mail for months. Every letter asking the same question “When will it be ready?”

The sixth book in the series was the first without its traditional full-page advert featured in Cumbria. Instead, the launch was advertised the following month in the A Lakeland Notebook section of the magazine.

Cumbria magazine April 1964.

Wainwright adored this region. During his research, he never once tired of retreading the same paths over and over. This area is also a favourite for many of his readers. It includes many popular fells such as Catbells, Grasmoor and Grisedale Pike. It also features the lowest fell, Castle Crag, nestled within the Jaws of Borrowdale. In Wainwright’s opinion, this area encloses the loveliest square mile in Lakeland. The North Western Fells would also be the first title in the series to be published by the Westmorland Gazette. See The Northern Fells for details.

During the Gazette years, The North Western Fells sold slightly more copies than The Northern Fells. Today, both guides are equally popular, and sales are roughly the same.

A First Edition is identified by:

  1. Yellow case with round corners and blue blocking
  2. 12/6 price on the dust jacket
  3. No impression number
  4. Book seven listed as – in preparation
in preparation helps identify a First Edition.
The North Western FellsFirst Edition with a yellow case and blue blocking.
A mid 1960s impression with gold blocking.

Towards the end of the 1960s, the guides would see their first physical changes since they were published. The colour shades started to change. The cases became less flexible, and the corners were eventually squared as we entered the next decade. This made it harder to slip it in and out of a pocket.

The North Western Fells early dust jackets.
The North Western Fells decimal dust jackets.
A master binding copy from the 1970s. This was used in the Westmorland Gazette’s bindery department to ensure the sections were collated in the correct order.
Unused case from the mid 1970s.
Inside an unused case from the mid 1970s.

The 1970s were a unique time for the guides. Throughout all my research, the guides I’ve acquired from this decade feature the widest variety of case types. Even today, I come across cases from this era I have never seen before. The prices for the seven guides throughout this decade were 90p, £1.40, £1.80, £2.25 and £2.70.

Sadly, it all came to an end at the beginning of the 1980s. The gold blocking was removed from the front of the case. The rexine also changed to a plain green colour, with very little texture.

Case examples from the 1970s.
Case examples from the 1980s.
The North Western Fells signed in the early 1980s.

Throughout the 1980s each guide was printed 3,000 at a time. However, Michael Joseph would soon be taking over as the new publisher, so the Gazette’s final print run for The North Western Fells was only 1,000. This was enough to see them through until they ceased publication of all guides.

The Westmorland Gazette’s final The North Western Fells order.
Michael Joseph’s The North Western Fells 1992 book launch order.
Michael Joseph publications, and the dust jacket artwork from 1992.

The new publisher struggled to justify the type in the prelims. They reached out to Chris Jesty, who had already made corrections in the past on behalf of Wainwright. Chris justified all the prelims by hand for Michael Joseph’s 1992 book launch. Chris recalls working on the prelims, “I hadn’t learned to imitate Wainwright’s hand-lettering, but the publishers were happy with it.” Chris slowly improved his technique, and by the time the Second Edition guides were published, he was able to closely mimic Wainwright’s writing style.

The North Western Fells Prelims produced for Michael Joseph by Chris Jesty.

In February 2003, Frances Lincoln were announced as the new publishers, after Michael Joseph ceased publication of the guides. The books were about to return to Kendal after being away for a decade. This made waves across the media. The Gazette was one of the first newspapers to report the move:

Two impressions of The North Western Fells, from the Frances Lincoln 2003 launch.

The move to Kendal proves a complete success, and the new guides fly off the shelves. Titus Wilson expand their premises to keep up with the demand. Here’s how Mike Addison reported the story for the Gazette:

Frances Lincoln 2003 Dust Jacket Negative.
Frances Lincoln 2003 Dust Jacket Negative.

To mark the 50th anniversary of The Eastern Fells, John Nicholl wanted to produce a 50th anniversary set of guides to match the original guides as closely as possible. Wainwright’s original pages were scanned, and a set of positives were produced for the printing. Gold blocking made a return to the front of the case for the first time since 1980. Limited-edition leather-bound box sets were also produced, with rounded corners. These sets are a must for all Wainwright enthusiasts. The new guides were launched in March 2005.

From left to right:
The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition. Frances Lincoln 2005.

The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition (second print). Frances Lincoln 2005.
The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary leather-bound. Frances Lincoln 2005.
An original 50th Anniversary Edition printed sheet. The best way to view Wainwright’s double page drawings.

In 2006, production costs increased and unfortunately Titus Wilson could no longer afford to produce the guides and make a profit. The printing ceased at Kendal and was moved to various locations around the world. The books still continue to be printed in China, despite the 50th Anniversary Edition title being out of date.

The Kendal printed The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition guides are very rare, and only a few remain via this link.

The North Western Fells 50th Anniversary Edition. Various Prints
The 50th Anniversary Edition guides were printed in various locations around the world: Italy, Singapore, Thailand and China.

Alongside the 50th Anniversary Editions, Frances Lincoln produced a set of revised guides. These would not affect Wainwright’s original guides which were considered ‘works of art’. After many years, Chris Jesty finally got his wish to update the guides properly. It was a task that occupied ten years of his life. Martin Wainwright for The Guardian takes up the story:

From left to right:
The North Western Fells – Second Edition. Frances Lincoln 2008.
The North Western Fells – Second Edition later print. Frances Lincoln 2009
The North Western Fells  50th Anniversary Edition ‘enlarged type’ (low gsm paper). Frances Lincoln 2009.
The North Western Fells  50th Anniversary Edition ‘enlarged type’ (high gsm paper). Frances Lincoln 2009

John Nicholl eventually sold Frances Lincoln to Quarto, and in 2015 the 50th Anniversary Edition guides were replaced by the Readers Edition. They were essentially the same guide under a different name. Unfortunately, these new guides were published individually over a three-year period. They were released to little fanfare, and if you didn’t buy them as they came out, you would struggle acquiring a full set.

In 2018, Quarto announced the launch of White Lion Publishing. All the guides would be published under this new brand. The following year, Quarto brought back Frances Lincoln. It was decided that they wanted to bring back their more prestigious brands. White Lion now publishes alternative titles aimed at a younger audience.

A few years later, even the Second Edition guides were becoming out of date. Clive Hutchby succeeded Chris Jesty and began revising the guides from scratch. The Walkers Edition was published as a flexibound guide in 2019. From 2020, all guides would adopt a new paperback format.

From left to right:
The North Western Fells  Readers Edition hardback. Frances Lincoln 2017.
The North Western Fells – Readers Edition paperback. Frances Lincoln 2021.
The North Western Fells  Walkers Edition flexibound. White Lion Publishing 2019.
The North Western Fells  Walkers Edition paperback. Frances lincoln 2020.
The White Lion Publishing logo appears on just one title.
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  • Carole says:

    I have a complete set but am unsure if it’s from the 1970’s or 80’s . Each book is white with the thinner band of color on the top & bottom of the book jacket.
    Is there a way to tell the difference?
    Thanks, Carole

    • Chris says:

      Hi Carole, thanks for your commment. The detailed printing history for all seven Lakeland Pictorial Guides are here. The physical differences between 1970s and 80s books are explained in great detail for every single guide. You should easily be able to identify the correct decade of yours within minutes of reading any of them.

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