The North Western Fells was published in March 1964 and Wainwright dedicated it 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.”
The sixth book in the series was the first without its traditional full-page advert featured in Cumbria magazine. Instead, the launch was advertised the following month in the A Lakeland Notebook section of the magazine.
Wainwright adored this region. During his research, he never once tired of retreading the same paths over and over. 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. The North Western Fells would also be the first title in the series to be published by the Westmorland Gazette. See The Northern Fells for details.
During the Gazette years, The North Western Fells sold slightly more copies than The Northern Fells. Today, both guides are equally popular, and sales are roughly the same.
A First Edition is identified by:
- Yellow case with round corners and blue lettering
- 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 colour shades started to change. The cases became less flexible, and the corners were eventually squared as we entered the next decade. This made it harder to slip it in and out of a pocket.
The 1970s were a unique time for the guides. Throughout all my research, the guides I’ve acquired from this decade feature the widest variety of case types. Even today, I come across cases from this era I have never seen before. The prices for the seven guides throughout this decade were 90p, £1.40, £1.80, £2.25 and £2.70.
Sadly, it all came to an end at the beginning of the 1980s. The gold blocking was removed from the front of the case. The rexine also changed to a plain green colour, with very little texture.
Throughout the 1980s each guide was printed 3,000 at a time. However, Michael Joseph would soon be taking over as the new publisher, so the Gazette’s final print run for The North Western Fells was only 1,000. This was enough to see them through until they ceased publication of all guides.
The new publisher struggled to justify the type in the prelims. They reached out to Chris Jesty, who had already made corrections in the past on behalf of Wainwright. Chris justified all the prelims by hand for Michael Joseph’s 1992 book launch. 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 was able to closely mimic Wainwright’s writing style.
In February 2003, Frances Lincoln were announced as the new publishers, after Michael Joseph ceased publication of the guides. The books were about to return to Kendal after being away for a decade. This made waves across the media. The Gazette was one of the first newspapers to report the move:
The move to Kendal proves a complete success, and the new guides fly off the shelves. Titus Wilson expand 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 50th anniversary set of guides to match the original guides as closely as possible. Wainwright’s original pages were scanned, and a set of positives were produced for the printing. Gold blocking made a return to the front of the case for the first time since 1980. Limited-edition leather-bound box sets were also produced, with rounded corners. These sets are a must for all Wainwright enthusiasts. The new guides were launched in March 2005.
The Kendal printed 50th Anniversary Edition guides are very rare, and only a few remain via this link.
In 2006, production costs increased and unfortunately Titus Wilson could no longer afford to produce the guides and make a profit. The printing ceased at Kendal and was moved to various locations around the world. These books are still being printed today in China, despite the 50th Anniversary Edition title being out of date.
Alongside the 50th Anniversary Editions, Frances Lincoln produced a set of revised guides. These would not affect Wainwright’s original guides which were considered ‘works of art’. After many years, 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:
John Nicholl eventually sold Frances Lincoln to Quarto, and in 2015 the 50th Anniversary Edition guides were replaced by the Readers Edition. They were essentially the same guide under a different name. Unfortunately, these new guides were published individually over a three-year period. This was a mistake by the publisher. They were released to little fanfare, and if you didn’t buy them as they came out, you would struggle acquiring a full set.
In 2018, Quarto announced the launch of White Lion Publishing. All the guides would be published under this new brand. The following year, Quarto brought back Frances Lincoln. It was decided that they wanted to bring back their more prestigious brands. White Lion now publishes alternative titles aimed at a younger audience.
A few years later, even the Second Edition guides were becoming out of date. Clive Hutchby succeeded Chris Jesty and began revising the guides from scratch. The Walkers Edition was published as a flexibound guide in 2019. From 2020, all guides would adopt a new paperback format.Back to top of page