The Eastern Fells was published in May 1955 and was dedicated to:
“THE MEN OF THE ORDNANCE SURVEY whose maps of Lakeland have given me much pleasure both on the fells and by my fireside”
On the 9th of November 1952, Alfred Wainwright began an obsessive thirteen-year project, producing seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. The guides incorporated multiple routes of ascent of 214 fells in total. The first book in the series was complete by Christmas 1954. Every page had been meticulously written and hand-drawn, and he wanted it printed precisely as he produced it. Was self-publishing the right way to go? The rejection from a major publisher would be a huge blow. His other concern was that they would interfere with the layout and use their typesetting. No, Wainwright wanted complete control.
Wainwright carried the manuscript to local printer Bateman and Hewitson Ltd, on Finkle Street, where he presented Sandy Hewitson with a box of handwritten pages. Sandy gently opened the box and began going through each page. He was mesmerised by this incredible work and didn’t think anyone had produced a handwritten book like this since the monks of medieval times.
At Wainwright’s request, Sandy worked out the cost for five hundred copies, which proved uneconomical. The only way to bring this figure down was to produce two thousand at a total cost of £900. Wainwright’s heart sank. He only had £35 to his name. Sandy reassured him that this book would sell and said he could pay him off as the books sold. Wainwright was delighted and accepted.
Henry Marshall, a local librarian, advised Wainwright that it wouldn’t look good being both author and publisher. Wainwright agreed, so Henry became his publisher and handled sales and distribution from his Kentmere home. The engravings were made in Manchester, and the Westmorland Gazette printed the guide through Bateman and Hewitson Ltd.
Despite slow sales for a few months, The Eastern Fells became a success, and all 2,000 copies sold before the Spring of 1956. Wainwright, Henry and Harry Firth, the Gazette’s Printing Manager, visited the central Lake District towns to sell the books. Leaflets were also produced to encourage more orders. June’s Cumbria magazine contained a hand-drawn advertisement for the book and a positive review of the guide featured in The Scouter magazine in July 1955.
The pocket-sized guide retailed at 12s 6d and contained over three hundred pages with no less than five hundred beautiful illustrations. It features round corners on the case and pages for easy removal from your pocket—attractive gold blocking features on both the front and spine.
A First Edition is identified by:
- Dark green case with round corners and gold blocking
- No impression number
- Book Two listed as – in preparation
The second impression rolled out at Easter 1956 and came with a dust jacket. The case material colour was also much darker than the first impression. First Edition owners could request a free dust jacket from the Gazette. However, the early jackets weren’t laminated, so the paper would eventually absorb the gold blocking from the front of the guide.
The Gazette acquired Bateman & Hewitson Ltd, a small jobbing printer on Finkle Street, Kendal. Eric Bateman continued to work for the Gazette and became the foreman of the bindery department until he retired in the 1970s. Wainwright gifted Eric a complete set of signed Pictorial Guides (as they were published) as thanks for his help in producing the series.
Around the fifth impression, book sales began ramping up, and by the time The Southern Fells was published in 1960, The Eastern Fells was on its sixth impression.
The Eastern Fells has seen many physical changes and new editions from multiple publishers. Decimalisation came in 1971, and the first decimal guide price was 90p. The round corners would soon become square, making the cases cheaper. A couple of years later, the case colours were in limited supply from the Gazette’s Nuneaton supplier. This was due to oil shortages in the Middle East. Instead of the original seven-book colours, the cases would now include various colours, including yellow, grey, burgundy, and blue.
By the mid-1970s, material shortages worsened, and the Gazette decided to use the same green-coloured faux leather case for every guide with Wainwright’s consent. The guides were eventually printed at 3,000 per impression and bound 1,000 at a time. The shortages sometimes resulted in multiple case types used for the same impression.
The gold blocking was removed from the front of the case by the latter half of 1980. It was no longer required because the guides had dust jackets. This move would also reduce production costs. Two years later, the printed prices on the dust jackets were removed and replaced with stickers. Many jackets in stock that retained older prices were clipped or stickered over.
By the mid-1980s, impression numbers that adorned the guides for many years would also be removed, which meant one less printing plate for every new impression. Some books had reached their hundredth impression, so their numbers weren’t as relevant as they once were.
The faux leather cases from the 1980s were less textured when compared to the patients from the mid to late 1970s. With experience, you can identify the printing date from the case type. In 1988, Titus Wilson & Son Ltd acquired a four-year contract to print the Wainwright guides. The Gazette still retained the publishing rights. See The Gazette Prints its Final Book for the whole story.
A few months after Wainwright died, the book publishing rights were transferred to Michael Joseph. The new guides launched in April 1992 and were a success. The first impression was printed in Kendal by Titus Wilson and retailed at £8.99. Unfortunately, by the spring of 1993, Michael Joseph decided to pull the books from Titus Wilson. Their new home was now Bungay, Suffolk, where all subsequent impression numbers were printed. This was their plan all along. Wainwright would not have approved.
The guides remained in the South of England for the next ten years. Shortly after the new millennium, book sales began to slow down, and the copyright was eventually transferred to Betty Wainwright. Her name would adorn a few more impressions before Michael Joseph ceased publication of the guides in 2003.
For the first time, Wainwright’s famous guides were out of print. The sadness was short-lived, as the Gazette announced Frances Lincoln as the new publisher. In addition, the guides would be returning to their rightful home in Kendal. The launch date was April 2003, and each guide retailed at £11.99. Most of the guides sold by Easter, so Titus Wilson had to expand their premises to hold more stock. Because of their success, Frances Lincoln immediately began planning their next major book launch.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Wainwright’s first guidebook in May 1955. Frances Lincoln scanned Wainwright’s original artwork for the new guides. Some of these pages were missing, so scans from older guides filled the gaps. The paper was sourced from James Cropper of Burneside to match the First Editions. The binding material also matched that of the original guides.
From left to right:
The Eastern Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition, Frances Lincoln 2005
The Eastern Fells – 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Leather-Bound, Frances Lincoln 2005
In June 2023, the 50th Anniversary Editions were made available as paperbacks for the first time. They are only available as a box set. See the Wainwright Box Set Collection for details.
The 50th Anniversary Editions were printed in Kendal. They retailed at £11.99 on launch but would soon increase to £12.99. In addition, there were two hundred Limited Edition Leather-Bound box sets for £250. In 2006, the books would again leave their spiritual home of Kendal and be printed in Italy, Singapore and Thailand until they finally settled in China, with a price increase to £13.99.
The original books are, without a doubt, a work of art and masterpieces of their time. By 2003, they were also outdated and impractical for planning a walk. Frances Lincoln produced a new guidebook series for use on the fells. One of the priorities was to keep each page as faithful as possible to Wainwright’s originals. Chris Jesty, a cartographer from Kendal, was chosen to take on this delicate task that would consume ten years of his life.
The Eastern Fells – Second Edition was published in June 2005 and retailed at £12.99. The price increased to £13.99, and then £14.99. Chris amended the guide in 2007. The guides were printed in Singapore, Thailand, and China.
Initially, the Second Editions weren’t distinguishable enough from the original series, so after book two, the dust jackets were replaced with jackets featuring photographs of Lakeland scenes by Derry Brabbs.
The Complete Pictorial Guides – A Reader’s Edition were published in 2009. It was a cloth-bound ten-guide box set with enlarged type and drawings ten per cent bigger than the originals. They were based on the 50th Anniversary Editions and retailed at £159.99.
Quarto bought children’s and horticultural publisher Frances Lincoln for £4.5m in 2011. Managing Director John Nicoll stayed in charge during the transitional period and worked as a consultant.
From left to right:
The Eastern Fells – Second Edition original Jacket, Frances Lincoln 2005
The Eastern Fells – Second Edition Photo Jacket, Frances Lincoln 2005
The Eastern Fells – Second Edition revised, Frances Lincoln 2007
The Eastern Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition’ enlarged type’ (low gsm paper), Frances Lincoln 2009
The Eastern Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition’ enlarged type’ (high gsm paper), Frances Lincoln 2009
It had been nearly ten years since Chris Jesty started revising the guides, and some of his routes were outdated. It was time for someone else to take up the mantle. Clive Hutchby, a resident of Keswick, continued Chris’s work. Clive had worked in the newspaper industry for many years and was a keen walker.
Whereas Chris Jesty took on the task alone of revising the guides, the latest revisions were a team effort with route contributions from several people. Clive kindly acknowledged everyone’s work within the guides. Also, for the first time in the guide’s history, Wainwright’s original handwritten text was replaced by a new ‘Lakeland’ font. The guides were now a new flexibound format, which was supposed to reduce the weight. However, there are only a few grams between them and the hardbacks. The Eastern Fells – Walkers Edition was published in March 2015, initially retailing at £12.99 and increased to £14.99.
The 50th Anniversary Editions were eventually outdated and renamed the Readers Editions. These new guides were published individually but in random order, priced at £14.99. The Eastern Fells – Walkers Edition was published as a flexibound guide in 2015. Eventually, both Readers and Walkers Editions were printed as paperbacks.
From left to right:
The Eastern Fells – Readers Edition hardback, Frances Lincoln 2017
The Eastern Fells – Readers Edition paperback, Frances Lincoln 2022
The Eastern Fells – Walkers Edition flexibound, Frances Lincoln 2015
The Eastern Fells – Walkers Edition paperback, Frances Lincoln 2020