The Central Fells

The Central Fells was published in May 1958 and was dedicated to:

Those eager explorers of the fells THE DOGS OF LAKELAND willing workers and faithful friends, and an essential part of Lakeland life


Wainwright grew aware of the relevance of his initial two guides, as they were becoming outdated due to man-made changes in the landscape. Despite acknowledging this issue, he expressed his reluctance to update them, putting his guides in jeopardy of potential withdrawal in the future. The postponement in releasing The Far Eastern Fells resulted in a mere one-year interval before The Central Fells was published. Moreover, escalating book production expenses were poised to contribute to an eventual hike in the retail prices of the guides.

Wainwright thoroughly enjoyed his experiences in the central region, and he was really hitting his stride now with the guidebooks. Despite his enigmatic nature, there was a noticeable shift as he gradually opened up and became more relaxed as a guidebook author.

Cumbria magazine May 1958


A First Edition is identified by:

  1. Steel blue case with round corners and silver blocking
  2. 12/6 price on the dust jacket
  3. No impression number
  4. Book four listed as – in preparation
In preparation helps identify a First Edition

The Central Fells emerged as one of the best-selling guides, attracting substantial attention and surpassing the sales figures of Book Two by a considerable margin. Only The Southern Fells and The Western Fells managed to complete with regards to sales figures.

The Central Fells First Edition
The Central FellsFirst Edition with a steel blue case and silver blocking
The Central Fells
Signed First Edition
The Central Fells Original Negatives
A sample of the original The Central Fells printing negatives
The Central Fells
The Central Fells prices between 1958 and 1981
The Central Fells
All dust jackets printed from the mid-1980s were laminated
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket negative from the 1970s
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket negative from the 1980s
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket positive from the 1980s

Similar to the initial two books, the presentation of Book Three underwent substantial changes during the 1970s. The rounded corners were phased out, and due to the restricted availability of coloured rexine, the conventional blue colour typically linked to this edition had a brief existence.

Two Seventy-fifth impressions…
…with different coloured cases

The Gazette utilised a distinctive red textured rexine on a specific occasion, associated with only a select number of guides, including The Northern Fells. Around the mid-1970s, there was a noticeable shift in the rexine colour, transitioning to dark green with only a few navy-blue impressions.

The Central Fells 1970s
Case examples from the 1970s

The 1970s was a memorable era for the guides. During this period, the guides exuded a vibrant and lively persona, making them visually appealing. However, as the calendar turned to 1979, the guides adopted a more formal appearance, signalling a shift in their aesthetic approach as the new decade approached.

The Central Fells signed in 1973
The Central Fells signed in 1973
The Central Fells signed in 1982
The Central Fells signed in 1982
The Central Fells Signed in 1985
The Central Fells signed in 1986
The Central Fells signed in 1986

By 1980, the gold gilt on the front of the cases had vanished. A further change occurred five years later when the impression numbers were no longer included. The Central Fells had surpassed its hundredth impression by this point, marking a noteworthy milestone. In the latter half of 1986, the guidebook price increased from £4.65 to £5.50. Notably, many individuals removed the price sticker, adding a layer of complexity to identifying a book’s date without the retail price on the dust jacket.

Case examples from the 1980s
The Westmorland Gazette’s final Titus Wilson order

In the late 1980s, The Westmorland Gazette shifted its book printing operations to Titus Wilson. Although printing continued within the Gazette’s premises for a few additional years, Titus Wilson held the printing contract for four years, from 1988 to 1991.

The General Printing and Book Publishing Manager, Andrew Nichol, retired at 60 in June 1992. Before his retirement, he designated Michael Joseph as the successor for the guidebooks’ publisher role. The appointment was a logical choice given Michael Joseph’s affiliation with the Pearson empire. Andrew diligently made all the essential arrangements and successfully transferred the publishing rights before concluding his 23 years of dedicated service to the Gazette.

Michael Joseph’s dust jacket artwork from 1992
The Central Fells Prelims were produced for Michael Joseph by Chris Jesty
Michael Joseph’s publications from 1992
Michael Joseph’s final Titus Wilson order

In 1992, Michael Joseph’s launch books were printed at Titus Wilson, specifically at their Dixon Print premises on Burneside Road in Kendal. However, the subsequent ten years saw the printing relocate to Suffolk. This transition marked a poignant period for Kendal, as the printing shift had a notable impact on the local community.

Michael Joseph ceased the publication of the guides in January 2003, and by February, Frances Lincoln assumed the role of the new publisher. This change marked a significant shift as the guides returned to their original home in Kendal. The successful relaunch occurred in April 2003, with The Central Fells guidebook gaining substantial popularity, reaching its third impression within just one year.

Three impressions of The Central Fells from Frances Lincoln 2003
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket (formerly Michael Joseph’s) negative from 2003
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket (formerly Michael Joseph’s) negative from 2003

In celebration of The Eastern Fells 50th anniversary, Frances Lincoln crafted new guides and a Limited Edition Leather-Bound box set. The latest guides marked the revival of the gold gilt on the front of the cases. While round corners were contemplated, given the associated expense, they were exclusively reserved for the Limited Edition Leather-Bound guides.

From left to right:
The Central Fells (50th), F. Lincoln 2005
The Central Fells (50th) Leather-Bound, F. Lincoln 2005

The gold blocking would return for the first time in 25 years
The guide prices eventually increased from £11.99 to £12.99
Titus Wilson used two different case colours
The 50th Anniversary Edition positives
The 50th Anniversary Edition printed sheets
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket positive from 2005
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket positive from 2005
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket positive from 2005
Frances Lincoln’s dust jacket positive from 2005
The original dust jacket masters
Frances Lincoln’s final Titus Wilson order
The Central Fells
The 50th Anniversary Editions were printed in various locations worldwide: Italy, Singapore, Thailand and China

The 50th Anniversary Editions debuted in paperback format in June 2023 and were presented as a box set. See the Wainwright Box Set Collection for details.

The Central Fells Paperback
The Central Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition paperback
The Central Fells
Frances Lincoln’s 2003 launch guides and the 50th Anniversary Editions from 2005.

In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary Editions, Chris Jesty dedicated substantial effort to the revised guides. The Central Fells – Second Edition was released in 2006. Frances Lincoln’s commitment extended further, culminating in the publication of a cloth-bound ten-guide box set in 2009. See The Eastern Fells for more details.

The Central Fells

From left to right:
The Central Fells (SE), F. Lincoln 2006
The Central Fells (SE) revised, F. Lincoln 2007
The Central Fells (RE) low gsm paper, F. Lincoln 2009
The Central Fells (RE) high gsm paper, F. Lincoln 2009

In 2011, Quarto acquired Frances Lincoln, and by 2014, certain Second Editions were deemed outdated. Clive Hutchby succeeded Chris Jesty, spearheading the revision of the guides for the foreseeable future. The Central Fells – Walkers Edition was introduced as a flexibound guide in 2016. Eventually, both the Readers and Walkers Editions became printed as paperbacks.

The Central Fells

From left to right:
The Central Fells (RE) hardback, F. Lincoln 2018
The Central Fells (RE) paperback, F. Lincoln 2021
The Central Fells (WE) flexibound, F. Lincoln 2016
The Central Fells (WE) paperback, F. Lincoln 2020

The Central Fells - Readers Edition
Several Readers Edition paperbacks weren’t consistently guillotined
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