Wainwright in Lakeland

Wainwright in Lakeland was published in 1983 and was:

“DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF FRANCES C. SCOTT who turned his dream of an Art Gallery at Abott Hall into reality”


Mary Burkett, OBE, took over as director of Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal in 1966. She first encountered Alfred Wainwright in 1962, and they started meeting every Monday morning to discuss the gallery’s finances. Their professional relationship soon blossomed into a close friendship, with Mary joining Wainwright on numerous walking expeditions. She also served as his chauffeur, introducing him to new locations.

In 1983, to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Abbot Hall Art Gallery, where Wainwright was a trustee, the gallery faced financial challenges. Wainwright, keen to support Mary and the gallery, proposed creating a book. This book was to be a compilation of his previous works, published under the auspices of the Abbot Hall governors. In October 1983, the Westmorland Gazette secured the copyright for Wainwright’s contributions, aiding the project’s realisation and offering a financial boost to the gallery.

Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Wainwright in Lakeland was published in 1983
The Westmorland Gazette printing materials for the original 1983 publication and 1985 reprint

At Abbot Hall, a meeting was convened to finalise the details for the new book featuring Wainwright’s work. The consensus was to limit the print run to 3,000 copies, a decision to minimise production costs. To add a unique touch and increase the book’s appeal, a limited number of these copies were to be personally signed and numbered by Wainwright himself. These signed editions would be made available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Spot the error? Many articles assumed there were 1,000 numbered and signed when there were 1,100

The initial proposal was for the first 50 copies to be leather-bound and sold for £25 each. The Westmorland Gazette’s Andrew Nichol suggested 100 copies, which retailed at £50 each. Mary looked at him, and her face beamed with delight at the prospect of extra revenue. Andrew’s intervention was the right decision, and all leather-bound copies were sold before they were even bound. Wainwright would now sign 1,100 books (the first 100 bound in Moroccan leather). The remaining 1,900 were unsigned. Wainwright’s 1974 Westmorland map came with every copy folded into a pocket at the rear of the book. Abbot Hall made about £15,000 from the sales.

The original plan for the book involved producing the first 50 copies in leather binding, to be sold at £25 each. However, Andrew Nichol of the Westmorland Gazette proposed an amendment: increase the number to 100 leather-bound copies, priced at £50 each. Mary Burkett’s reaction to this suggestion was one of evident pleasure, recognising the potential for significantly increased revenue.

Nichol’s recommendation proved astute. The demand for these special leather-bound copies was so high that all 100 copies were sold even before they were bound. Subsequently, Wainwright agreed to sign a total of 1,100 books, which included these 100 premium copies bound in Moroccan leather. The remaining 1,900 copies of the print run were to be unsigned.

Regardless of the binding, each book included a copy of Wainwright’s 1974 map of Westmorland. This map was folded and inserted into a pocket at the rear of each book. This unique addition likely contributed to the book’s popularity. The sales from this venture were remarkably successful for Abbot Hall, with total revenue reaching around £15,000.

The folded map at the rear of the 1983 publication
The folded map at the rear of the 1985 publication
Leather-bound edition
Faux leather edition
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
The original negative for the signature page. Wainwright would write the number within each box and sign underneath
Rare leather-bound edition, including original leather bookmark and receipt
The original A4 receipt for the leather-bound edition is rarer than the book itself

In 1985, the Gazette amended and republished Wainwright in Lakeland. An estimated 3,000 copies were printed for this new edition. Adding to the book’s significance, Harry Griffin, a respected writer and a notable figure in the world of fellwalking and outdoor journalism, was invited to write the foreword.

The Wainwright in Lakeland 1985 edition came in three different case variants
RARE signed Wainwright in Lakeland 1985 edition
Wainwright in Lakeland
The final books from the 1985 publication
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Original 1983 dust jacket negatives
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Original 1985 dust jacket negatives

The Gazette’s decision to use offset lithography to print Wainwright in Lakeland represented a contemporary approach to book production, leveraging what was then considered new technology. Offset lithography is a commonly used printing technique suitable for high-quality print jobs like books and fine art reproductions.

Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  • Preparation of Presensitised Plates: The process begins with presensitized printing plates coated with a photosensitive layer. These plates are crucial for transferring the image to be printed.
  • Exposure to Ultraviolet Rays: The plates are then exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. During this exposure, the areas of the plate that correspond to the images or text (where the light passes through the negative) are hardened. This is due to the reaction of the photosensitive material to the UV light.
  • Development and Washing: After exposure, the plate is developed. During this stage, the unhardened photosensitive material on the non-printing areas of the plate (areas not exposed to the light) is washed away, leaving behind a relief of the image to be printed.
  • Wetting and Inking: The developed plate is dampened; water adheres only to the non-image areas. The image areas, being hydrophobic, repel the water. When applied, ink adheres only to the image areas (the hydrophobic parts) and is repelled by the wetted non-image areas.
  • Printing: Finally, the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from the plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface, which in this case would be the book’s pages.
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Original 1983 prelims
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Original 1983 intro
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Original 1985 prelims

In the era of film photography, sometimes negatives would develop pinholes in their emulsion layer. Such flaws could arise while photographing original artwork, often due to dust particles. To address these imperfections, a technique called ‘spotting’ was employed. An opaque substance was used to cover these pinholes. This process was essential to ensure the final printed materials were free from unwanted spots. Clifford Turner, an employee in the general printing department at the Gazette, was skilled in this technique. In a unique personal touch, while spotting out imperfections on one of the negatives, he included a couple of his own signatures, adding a distinctive human touch.

Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
The spotting must have taken hours
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Clifford Turner’s signatures from 1983
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Title page
Wainwright in Lakeland Negatives
Pennine Way Companion feature

In 1988, a notable development occurred with the remaining stock of Wainwright’s books, initially published in 1983 by the trustees of Abbot Hall. It was estimated that about 700 to 800 unsigned copies were still available. Recognising an opportunity, a special arrangement was made, and Wainwright agreed to sign these remaining copies. These signed editions were then exclusively provided to Geoffrey Halden, the owner of Wearings Bookshop in Ambleside.

In April 1988, these books, newly signed by Wainwright but unnumbered, were sold for £19.95 each. Over the years, their value increased. By 2000, the value of these signed copies had risen dramatically, with Wearings Bookshop selling them for £225 each.

In 1988, Wainwright signed all remaining unnumbered copies.
Not all signatures were in the exact location

A notable event in 2010 exemplified the dramatic appreciation of the value of these special editions. This year, a leather-bound copy of Wainwright in Lakeland—initially priced at £50 when it was first released—was sold at auction for an impressive £2,200. This substantial increase in value highlights the collectable nature of these books.

From top to bottom:
Wainwright in Lakeland leather-bound numbered and signed, W.Gazette 1983
Wainwright in Lakeland numbered and signed, W.Gazette 1983
Wainwright in Lakeland signed, W.Gazette 1983
Wainwright in Lakeland signed, W.Gazette 1985
Wainwright in Lakeland, W.Gazette 1985
Wainwright in Lakeland alt faux leather, W.Gazette 1985

Back to top of page