The story behind the Guidebooks
Fellwanderer was published in October 1966 with a dedication:
“To Fellwanderers past, present and future”
Wainwright had already completed the narrative for his next project before The Western Fells was even published. Fellwanderer is a compilation of essays and reflections on his experiences while walking and exploring the fells of the Lake District. It’s a part of his larger Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series. Alongside Wainwright’s thoughts and observations, he shares many sketches and photographs of the landscapes he loved. This made it a valuable resource for his ever-growing and curious fanbase and those interested in the area’s natural beauty and outdoor exploration.
The book is not only a wonderful insight into the guides, but also Wainwright himself. For such a private individual, he opens up (to a degree) and reveals much about his life. Although Fellwanderer was praised by many at the time, there were also several negative reviews. This was primarily down to Wainwright’s readers preferring his signature handwritten text and route drawings, which they’d become accustomed to for 13 years. A few people also disagreed with some of Wainwright’s sentiments, which they thought were overly critical.
I doubt the people who reviewed this book unfavourably were ever going to be his long-term disciples anyway. Fellwanderer was Wainwright just warming up. For those who felt his opinions were occasionally harsh, they would pale in comparison with what was to come in Ex-Fellwanderer over twenty years later. Fellwanderer is one of my favourite books, as it gives the reader a detailed history of the guides, which we never had up to this point. The only change I would have made is for it to have been guidebook size. Then, it could have sat nicely alongside the seven Pictorial Guides as their faithful companion.
Fellwanderer was first announced in a leaflet that Harry Firth, The General Printing Manager at the Westmorland Gazette, placed in all early copies of The Western Fells. It sold reasonably well and was priced at a modest 15/- the same as the guides at the time. Wainwright’s new title was also featured in Cumbria magazine, along with a half-page advert in November 1966.
The book is 128 pages, printed in landscape format with a premium green cloth case. Gold blocking adorns the front and spine. There is one defining feature that identifies a First Edition, and that is a spelling mistake. Without this, it would be impossible to determine a First Edition, as the second impression is identical to the first in every way.
If the description of the final photograph at the rear of your copy contains the spelling – Gatescarth (it should be spelt Gatesgarth), then yours is a First Edition. The misprint was corrected for the following print run. Thanks to Derek Cockell for informing me of this error several years ago.
I located the original 1966 Westmorland Gazette printing negatives for Fellwanderer in 2019, when I was fortunate to become the custodian of all existing Wainwright book printing materials. They were a little worse for wear, and I was surprised they still survived the intervening years. They clearly hadn’t been used for decades.
Unless you are familiar with the Wainwright books, it can be quite difficult to determine when some copies of Fellwanderer were printed. The book doesn’t contain impression numbers or a list of recently published books. Every book features the original publication date 1966, leading people to believe their copy is a First Edition.
Fortunately, the case material and pricing mirrors the guidebooks exactly. The prices increased incrementally throughout the 1970s, and the final printed dust jacket price was £3.00 in 1981. Price stickers were used between 1982 and 1991. The gold blocking was removed from the front of the book in 1980, which also helps identify the period it was printed. Finally, when the Wainwright book printing changed hands (see later), this helped to date later printed copies.
The gold blocking was a manual task. The book title and Wainwright’s signature were on a single block, so the case was stamped once. The gold blocking was uniform throughout most of the period it was used. However, the last few copies that featured gold blocking weren’t neatly stamped. The signature was in a different position on every copy and wasn’t parallel with the book title. We don’t know why, but it appears that two separate blocks were used around 1979 before the blocking was discontinued.
The original Fellwanderer negatives deteriorated as the years passed, especially the photo quality, which had diminished throughout the 1970s. Eventually, the Gazette decided to produce new negatives. This meant creating new artwork and re-scanning all of Wainwright’s original photos. This was a huge undertaking, but once the project was complete, the difference in quality was night and day.
This next part of the story is not necessarily Wainwright-related, but I am all for the detail when it comes to the publishing and printing history of the books. Having acquired all the new artwork from 1980, it was interesting to see the type of paper they used to mount the artwork ready for photography. The Gazette didn’t utilise new paper. Instead, they recycled previously printed sheets used for other customers.
These new sheets were from a 1980 calendar. February of that year was a leap year, which confirmed the date. I spotted an article on the calendar by John Halfacre, President of the Atheltic Union at Lancaster University. Was John aware, or would he even care, that his name adorned the rear of every single sheet of original artwork for one of Wainwright’s most well-known publications?
This was 43 years ago, so where was John now, and could I find him? Curiosity got the better of me, so I searched and quickly located him. We spoke for some time on the phone, and he was delighted to hear that his old University work appeared on the back of Wainwright’s Gazette artwork. I sent him a scan, and he remembered the calendar as though it was yesterday. He was pleased that I contacted him to share this discovery.
With the new negatives now complete, all subsequent reprints would significantly improve quality—especially the photos. The only downside to these changes were the drawings. They were slightly enhanced from the original negatives but weren’t perfect. The only way around it was to re-scan Wainwright’s original illustrations. However, locating the originals wasn’t easy as most of them had been sold for charity over the years. Only a handful featured in Fellwanderer had been published in his other books.
From 1988, the Gazette were a publisher only, and the book printing was transferred to Titus Wilson & Son Ltd. Three years later, in 1990, the printing was moved again to Titus Wilson & Son (a different printer under the same name). See The Gazette Prints its Final Book for the whole story.
An urgent order of 1,000 copies of Fellwanderer was signed off by the General Printing and Book Publishing Manager, Andrew Nichol, on the 23rd of May 1991. This was a sad moment, as it would be the final order for this title. It has never since been reprinted.
For the final order, the Gazette addressed some of the faded drawings. Twelve were highlighted for replacement, but only six of the worst were swapped. Four drawings were like-for-like and found in the Lakeland Sketchbooks and Wainwright in Lakeland. The final two were alternative drawings of the same mountains.
These substitutes were:
1. Harrison Stickle. The original is held in the Kendal County Archive but wasn’t there in 1991. The alternative drawing was taken from A Fourth Lakeland Sketchbook.
2. Honister Crag. The alternative was taken from a Third Lakeland Sketchbook. I have since found the original like-for-like drawing in Wainwright in Lakeland, perhaps overlooked at the time.
The faded drawings (copied from the old 1966 negatives) were cut from the 1980-produced negatives and replaced with these new scans. I don’t think anyone even noticed the two alternative mountain drawings. I wasn’t aware of the changes until 2019, when I closely examined all the printing materials.
When I first became aware of these changes in Fellwanderer, I searched everywhere for a copy from the final print run. The search took me nearly a year, and when I finally acquired one, I was disappointed to find several ripped pages within. I looked for a replacement copy for another two years with no luck. Fortunately, a good friend of mine, John Fearn, had a spare copy from 1991. I can’t thank John enough. If not for him, I would still be searching today.
It is hard to believe it has been over three decades since Fellwanderer was last in print. I understand it is a book of its time and wouldn’t sell to the masses today. Fortunately, copies are still easily found.
There are so many stand-out moments in this book. I’d like to think that the woman Wainwright briefly met on High Stile in July 1964 purchased a copy and recognised herself as the one he spoke about in the final pages. It would have made the day even more memorable for her, knowing she guessed correctly that he was Wainwright.
The book closes with one of Wainwright’s finest passages that still resonates with fellwalkers today:
Every day that passes is a day less. That day will come when there is nothing left but memories. And afterwards, a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go there for the last time, and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.
And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.Back to top of page