The Northern Fells

The Northern Fells was published in April 1962 and was dedicated to:

Those who travel alone THE SOLITARY WANDERERS ON THE FELLS who find contentment in the companionship of the mountains and of the creatures of the mountains


Book Five enjoyed significant success due to Keswick’s popularity as a holiday destination, with most routes centred around Keswick and its buses. In this new guide, Wainwright describes Skiddaw as “an affable and friendly giant.” Notably, its neighbouring mountain, Blencathra, is extensively covered with 36 pages, surpassing even Scafell Pike, making it a prominent feature in this new guide.

Cumbria magazine April 1962

The more popular fells faced overcrowding during this period, while the northern region remained relatively untouched. If you were seeking solitude, this was the destination of choice. Wainwright, unfamiliar with this area until he meticulously mapped it, rarely encountered others during his time on the fells. While this region may lack the grandeur of its southerly counterparts, the presence of Skiddaw and Blencathra elevates its profile, establishing it as one of the district’s finest fells.

The inclusion of Mungrisdale Common raises questions about Wainwright’s decision. Also, some argue that the Skiddaw section may contain excess material, perhaps seen as padding. Wainwright’s initial count of fells in this region was below 24, fueling ongoing debates. Undoubtedly, the methodology behind Wainwright’s guide will be a subject of theorising for years to come.

The Northern Fells marked the conclusion of the series published by Henry Marshall. By 1963, the sales of the guidebooks surpassed expectations, and Henry managed all invoicing and distribution. With a sustained rise in sales, Wainwright opted to transfer all publishing rights to the Westmorland Gazette. The transition involved selling the remaining books to the Gazette for £753. Subsequently, a sticker bearing the Gazette’s name was affixed over Henry Marshall’s in every book.

The Westmorland Gazette covered Henry Marshall’s name in 1963


A First Edition is identified by:

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

Historically, The Northern Fells demonstrated notable success, achieving sales comparable to The North Western Fells during the Gazette years. It would be unfair to compare the earlier, more established guides directly. Notably, The Northern Fells surpassed The Far Eastern Fells in sales, marking a considerable achievement.

The Northern FellsFirst Edition with a maroon case and silver blocking
Signed First Edition
The Northern Fells Original Negatives
A sample of the original The Northern Fells printing negatives
The Northern Fells prices between 1962 and 1981
The Northern Fells Dust Jacket Negative
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket negative from the 1970s
The Northern Fells Dust Jacket Negative 2
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket negative from the 1980s
Westmorland Gazette dust jacket positive from the 1980s

By the mid-1960s, all guides were priced at 15 shillings. Following the decimalisation in 1971, the first updated price was set at 90 pence.

A First Edition and a late 1960s impression
A master binding copy from the 1970s (to ensure the sections were collated correctly)

The guides underwent several modifications during the 1970s, with some employing multiple case types. Additional coloured cases were discovered, such as a red leopard skin type rexine featured on a limited number of The Central Fells guides. Surprisingly, the same case type was identified for The Northern Fells. The extent of its usage on other guides remains uncertain, but it appears to have been employed briefly, specifically when no alternative material was accessible.

Occasionally, some case types were in short supply, and alternatives were used

Most readers acquired a single set of guides and were unaware of the changes occurring over the decade. In 1979, the iconic gold blocking on the front of all cases bid its farewell. Escalating production costs led to its removal, resulting in time and cost savings. The case designs in the 1980s were notably plain and lacked inspiration, with only three distinct types maintained throughout the entire decade.

Case examples from the 1970s
The Westmorland Gazette 1975 book list
1975 guidebook prices
Various Westmorland Gazette price lists
The Northern Fells Signed in 1973
The Northern Fells Signed in 1982
The Northern Fells Signed in 1985
The Northern Fells Signed in 1987
The Northern Fells Signed in 1987
Case examples from the 1980s

The Gazettes General Printing and Book Publishing Manager, Andrew Nichol, chose early retirement in 1992, leading to the appointment of Michael Joseph as the new publisher. Andrew’s decision significantly altered the trajectory of the guidebooks. Had he not retired prematurely, The Gazette would have persisted in publishing the books throughout the 1990s.

Titus Wilson safeguarded The Gazette’s guidebook negatives, employed to print Michael Joseph’s 1992 new launch. The print quality achieved parity with the original guides. Beginning in 1993, Clays Ltd, Bungay took over the printing responsibilities, marking the first instance of Wainwright’s renowned guides being produced outside Kendal. Andrew provided Michael Joseph with a duplicate set of negatives, while Titus Wilson retained possession of the originals.

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

In 2001, there was a noticeable decline in sales, and by 2003, Michael Joseph formally discontinued the publication of the guides. Despite several publishers expressing interest, Frances Lincoln emerged victorious in the bidding process, and their appointment as the new publisher was declared in February 2003. After years of absence, this marked a significant homecoming for the guides to Kendal, with the official relaunch in April 2003. The latest editions were meticulously reproduced using the original Gazette negatives, stored for over a decade. Notably, The Northern Fells guide gained substantial popularity, achieving its second impression within a year.

Two impressions of The Northern 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 2004, Frances Lincoln’s Managing Director, John Nicholl, recognised the impending 50th anniversary of The Eastern Fells. To commemorate the occasion, new guides were planned, and Frances Lincoln initiated the production of fresh scans derived from Wainwright’s original pages. The resulting 50th Anniversary Editions were released in March 2005, marking the return of gold blocking on the guides’ fronts after a hiatus of 25 years. Limited Edition Leather-Bound box sets were also crafted and made available for retail at £250.

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

The gold blocking would return for the first time in 25 years
The 50th Anniversary Edition price increased in 2006
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

Escalating production costs compelled the relocation of book printing operations away from Kendal once more. Titus Wilson found it financially challenging to print the books while maintaining profitability. Starting in 2006, the books were printed in various locations globally until a more permanent arrangement was established in China.

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 Northern Fells Paperback
The Northern Fells – 50th Anniversary Edition paperback

Frances Lincoln confronted a new challenge as the original guides became outdated and were no longer deemed reliable for ensuring safety on the fells. Despite this, preserving Wainwright’s original “works of art” in print remained a top priority. Thus, a comprehensive project to revise the guides was initiated, a responsibility shouldered by Chris Jesty, who dedicated the next decade of his life to this endeavour. Given his prior experience with minor revisions, Jesty was well-suited for the task. The Northern Fells – Second Edition was published in 2008, followed by additional amendments in 2009. Concurrently, in the same year, Frances Lincoln released a cloth-bound ten-guide box set, drawing inspiration from the 50th Anniversary Editions.

In 2011, Quarto acquired Frances Lincoln, and in the following years, Quarto’s name began appearing as the publisher in the guides. Notably, Quarto assumed responsibility for printing The Second Editions at a later stage. These later prints can be recognised by a £14.99 price tag, differentiating them from the earlier editions priced at £12.99 and £13.99, respectively.

From left to right:
The Northern Fells (SE), F. Lincoln 2008
The Northern Fells (SE) revised, F. Lincoln 2009
The Northern Fells (SE) revised, F. Lincoln 2009
The Northern Fells (SE) revised, F. Lincoln 2009
The Northern Fells (RE) low gsm paper, F. Lincoln 2009
The Northern Fells (RE) high gsm paper, F. Lincoln 2009

As of 2014, almost a decade had passed since Chris Jesty initiated the revision of the guides, and some of his initial modifications had become outdated. Taking over from Chris, Clive Hutchby, along with assistance from others, undertook a comprehensive revision of the guides from the ground up. This effort resulted in the publication of The Northern Fells – Walkers Edition as a flexibound guide in 2018. Eventually, both the Readers and Walkers Editions became printed as paperbacks.

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

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