Wainwright Box Set Collection

Share this on your social networks

When I initially started collecting the Pictorial Guides, I was surprised to discover just how many physical variations were out there. This didn’t include all the different editions. For decades, the guides were only ever available individually, and it wasn’t until 1986 that the Westmorland Gazette‘s Andrew Nichol came up with the idea of producing a Presentation Pack for all seven Lakeland guides. His thinking was, they would make ideal gifts and would increase in value over time. During one of Andrew’s visits to Kendal Green, he proposed the idea to Wainwright who didn’t think they would sell. However, they proved to be a complete success and the sales figures surprised even Wainwright. Hundreds of sets sold during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were no longer produced after Michael Joseph took over as publisher in 1992.

Presentation Pack. Westmorland Gazette 1986.

We wouldn’t see another box set for many years. In 2003 Michael Joseph stopped printing the guides due to declining sales. In February of that year, Frances Lincoln acquired the publishing rights to Wainwright’s iconic works. For the upcoming April 2003 launch, a new set was produced from the original negatives. The guides were presented in an attractive red and white case. Today, these sets are highly collectable, but difficult to find.

Original guidebook box set. Frances Lincoln 2003.

In 2004, Frances Lincoln published the Lakeland Sketchbooks in an attractive blue slipcase. This was the first time the books had been printed since the Westmorland Gazette years, as Michael Joseph never produced any. Unfortunately, this new Frances Lincoln box box set didn’t sell as well as expected so the sketchbooks were never printed again. As with the Presentation Pack, this set is also rare and collectable.

Lakeland Sketchbooks box set. Frances Lincoln 2004.

Two years later in 2005, the 50th Anniversary Edition guides were published, and we would see two new box sets released simultaneously. The regular guides were published in a white and gold case, and the limited-edition leather-bound guides were presented in an attractive burgundy case.

50th Anniversary Edition box set. Frances Lincoln 2005.
50th Anniversary leather-bound box set. Frances Lincoln 2005.

A special cloth-bound ten guide box set was published in 2009. The Complete Pictorial Guides – A Reader’s Edition featured enlarged type and drawings; ten percent bigger than the originals. They were based on the 50th Anniversary Edition guides. The original RRP was £159.99.

A Reader’s Edition Cloth-Bound box set. Frances Lincoln 2009.

Frances Lincoln released an eight guide second edition box set in 2011. These sets sold well, and although you could purchase the guides separately, the box sets sold out quickly and are now difficult to acquire. The most valuable guide amongst them is The Outlying Fells of Lakeland – Second Edition, which is the biggest attraction of this set.

Second edition guidebook box set. Frances Lincoln 2011.

The 50th Anniversary Edition guides have been in print for many years and are still being produced today in small quantities. They left Kendal in 2006 and have since been printed all around the world. They are currently printed in China. These case style has changed over the years and they are now produced flat-packed, as opposed to the Kendal cases which were solid card.

The Complete Pictorial Guides – A Reader’s Edition box sets have also seen multiple changes over the years. Two sizes were produced, and they are difficult to identify unless you place them both together.

The Complete Pictorial Guides – A Reader’s Edition box sets. Frances Lincoln 2009.

During my research in Kendal for the archive, I came across the flat-packed boxes and cardboard inserts for the original Presentation Packs. These box sets are rare, so it was a delight to find the remaining unused stock. A limited number of these Presentation Packs are available via the link.

The remaining Presentation Packs produced by the Westmorland Gazette 1986.

In addition to the Presentation Packs, I found dozens of the original 2003 and the 2005 50th Anniversary Edition/leather-bound boxes. These were all produced in Kendal.

Multiple guidebook cases from Kendal. Frances Lincoln 2003/2005.

The final items located were the original printing materials for the 2003 box sets and the 50th Anniversary Edition/leather-bound boxes. I was fortunate to unearth everything, as it was thought to have all been lost many years ago. The film is reflective and difficult to photograph, but several images have been included to illustrate the printing process.

Back to top of page


  • Robert Challoner says:

    Another great article Chris, very informative with the printing history of the guides, and a great read. Keep up the good work.

  • Michael Kennedy says:

    Thank you, Chris. That’s given me a much clearer understanding.

  • Kevin Armstrong says:

    Dear Chris,

    Am I correct in thinking that Wainwright first took photographs on his walks and then made the drawings at home in the winter months? I recall a comment he made in one of the television programmes.

    If this is so are you aware of the existence of the photographs and negatives? As an amateur photographer I would be interested in seeing these as I enjoy his visual compositions. I also believe ‘Wainwright as a mountain and landscape photographer’ would be of great interest to the photographic community and publications and would represent a new opportunity to present him and his works.

    Best regards,


    • Chris says:

      Hi Kevin, that is correct. Wainwright took photos during his walks at the weekend. He then produced the writing and drew the scenes he’d captured during the week. I suspect the original photos/negatives are held in the Cumbrian Archive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *