As I picked up the notebook in which I’d listed some articles that needed writing I was a little puzzled. The next one to do was, “a Wainwright”. Had I meant A. WAINWRIGHT, the author of the famous Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells? Or was I referring to one of the summits listed in the seven volumes of those guides? Thinking back I quickly decided that on this occasions I’d meant the name that he used as author of his books. It was never “Alfred” but always “A.”.
Thinking further about the more than 200 Lakeland summits nowadays referred to as “Wainwrights” I also realised that as I’m now in my eighth decade and not at the peak of fitness to “bag” all, or possibly even any more, of these in the sense of scaling the peaks is going to be beyond my capabilities. But is there another way for a Cumbrian bibliophile to “bag” a Wainwright? Lake District interests come in many shapes and forms after all.
To the best of my memory the first Wainwright book that I ever bought, somewhere around thirty years ago, was “Kendal in the Nineteenth Century”, a volume of sketches of old Kendal based on 19th century photographs accompanied by notes from the researches of John Marsh and dedicated to “The First Men in Kendal with Cameras”. It is on my desk beside me here as I type this article.
My latest acquisition is a copy of the 2004 reprint edition of “Westmorland Heritage“. I’d borrowed this from the Cumbria Library Service in the past but never owned it; however, last week my sister-in-law’s £20 cheque for a recent birthday went to snap up a copy that I saw advertised at a surprisingly low price. I now have my own copy of the volume produced by Wainwright to commemorate the historic Lakeland county that was swallowed up by the new Cumbria in 1974; almost 500 pages of pure Wainwright gold.
As well as running web sites that sell books of various kinds I have also since my teenage years been a collector of North West England topography, that is for more than fifty years. When the children were young and budgets were tight I once sold some of my prized titles to a Kendal dealer, but gradually built back so that now there are seven or eight shelves full of the North, mostly Cumbria and North Lancashire, next to me here in my study.
Among these, of course, there is quite a number of Wainwrights and I’m going to start a campaign to “bag” the rest. If I can no longer climb the mountains I can at least own and enjoy the books. So what next? I think to complete the set of Lakeland Sketches and Mountain Drawings, but I’m setting myself a target to finish the “bagging” without paying more than £20 for any one title. It’s a tall order as although some will come for far less than that, others are rare now and crazy prices are being asked; but let’s see if I can do it.
Of course, for anyone who is younger and fitter than I the prescription must surely be to walk to at least some of the summits of the Lake District. Wainwright covered 214 in the seven volumes of his Pictorial Guides, plus many more in the Outlying Fells volume that followed, so there’s no shortage of peaks to be enjoyed.
Click here for more Wainwright Books.