The North Western Fells was published in March 1964 and was dedicated 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. Readers bombarded Cumbria magazine with fan mail for months. Every letter asks, “When will it be ready?”
Book six in the series was the first without its traditional full-page advert featured in Cumbria. The magazine’s A Lakeland Notebook section marked the launch the following month.
Wainwright adored this region. He never once tired of treading the same paths repeatedly during his research. 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. It would also be the first title in the series published by the Westmorland Gazette. See The Northern Fells for more details.
During the Gazette years, The North Western Fells sold slightly more copies than The Northern Fells. Both guides are equally popular today, and sales are roughly the same.
A First Edition is identified by:
- Yellow case with round corners and blue blocking
- 12/6 price on the dust jacket
- No impression number
- Book seven listed as – in preparation
Towards the end of the 1960s, the guides would see their first physical changes since they were published. The cases became less flexible, and the corners were eventually squared, making slipping them in and out of a pocket harder. The cases also came in different shades of yellow.
The 1970s was an interesting time for the guides. The guides from this decade feature the widest variety of case types. The prices for the seven guides throughout this decade were 90p, £1.40, £1.80, £2.25 and £2.70.
Sadly, by the end of 1980, they changed to plain green with very little texture. The gold blocking was also removed from the front of the case.
In 1985, the Gazette bound their millionth Wainwright book, which happened to be The North Western Fells. The whole story behind this celebrated event can be found in the Memorabilia section of the website.
The guides were printed 3,000 at a time throughout the 1980s. However, Michael Joseph would soon become the new publisher, so the Gazette’s final print run for this guide was only one thousand. It was enough to see them through until they ceased publication of all guides.
The publishing rights were transferred to Michael Joseph towards the end of 1991. They reached out to Chris Jesty to handwrite the prelims. It made sense, as he had made corrections on behalf of Wainwright in the past. 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 could closely mimic Wainwright’s writing style. Chris justified all the prelim text by hand for Michael Joseph’s guides.
In 1993, guidebook printing left Kendal for the first time since 1955. They were printed in the south of England by Clays Ltd, Bungay. The guides remained there for the next ten years until Michael Joseph ceased publishing the guides in 2003. Wainwright’s famous guides were now officially out of print.
After a stroke of luck, the guides were about to return to Kendal after a decade of absence. In February 2003, Frances Lincoln were announced as the new publisher, and the Gazette was one of the first newspapers to report the news:
The move to Kendal proves a complete success, and the new guides fly off the shelves. Titus Wilson expands their premises to keep up with the demand. Here’s how Mike Addison reported the story for the Gazette:
To mark the 50th anniversary of The Eastern Fells, John Nicholl wanted to produce a set of guides to match the original guides as closely as possible—the new guides launched in March 2005. Wainwright’s original artwork was scanned, and gold blocking returned to the front of the case for the first time since 1980. Limited Edition Leather-Bound box sets were also produced for Wainwright enthusiasts.
From left to right:
The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition, Frances Lincoln 2005
The North Western Fells – 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Leather-Bound, Frances Lincoln 2005
Production costs continued to increase, and unfortunately, Titus Wilson could no longer afford to produce the guides and profit. The printing ceased at Kendal in 2007 and was moved to various locations worldwide. Despite being outdated, the 50th Anniversary Editions are still being printed in China.
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.
Alongside the 50th Anniversary Editions, Frances Lincoln began a revision project. It would not affect Wainwright’s original guides, considered ‘works of art. 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 Editions were replaced by the Readers Edition. They were essentially the same guide under a different name. The new guides were published individually over three years. Acquiring a complete set later became difficult if you didn’t buy them when they were released.
In 2018, Quarto announced the launch of White Lion Publishing. White Lion now publishes alternative titles aimed at a younger audience, and the guides were published under this new brand. Quarto brought back Frances Lincoln the following year, as they wanted to bring back their more prestigious brands.
A few years later, even the Second Editions were becoming outdated. Clive Hutchby succeeded Chris Jesty and began revising the guides from scratch. The North Western Fells – Walkers Edition was published as a flexibound guide in 2019. Eventually, both Readers and Walkers Editions were printed as paperbacks.
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