If you look on the website, you will see that Cicerone has an enviable, and really quite staggering, collection of nearly 400 titles, available as both printed books and e-books. It’s a collection built up and developed over the entire course of 50 years, beginning with the first title published in March 1969.
Some titles have been, shall we say, a little quirky, and have not sold as well as we would have predicted, surviving just one edition. Others, however, seem to have touched the hearts and desires of generations of enthusiasts and adventurers, standing the test of time over multiple editions and, in some cases, multiple authors who have taken on the challenges of updating a guidebook.
Here are a few of our most amazing success stories – guidebook titles that have stood the test of time.
The Tour of Mont Blanc
Ask anyone to name a long-distance route in the Alps, and the chances are that they just might have heard of the Tour of Mont Blanc. But how many people are aware of when this little-known ‘idea’ first went into print as a guidebook?
One day in the mid-1970s, an article arrived in the Climber & Rambler in-tray from a recently retired BBC employee describing a trek around Mont Blanc, illustrated with some fine black-and-white photographs. After the article appeared in the magazine, Walt Unsworth, who was the editor of Climber and Rambler at the time, contacted the author asking him to produce a guide to what was already considered to be the finest multi-day trek in the Alps. Sussex-based Andrew Harper accepted the invitation and duly wrote and illustrated a slim, 100-page walking guide, the Tour of Mont Blanc (1977), which went through several editions before he died in 2001. The title was then passed to one of Cicerone’s then most prolific authors, Kev Reynolds, who has seen it through a number of further updates and editions.
Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees
This amazingly enduring title was the first commissioned by Walt Unsworth to the then young Pyrenean explorer and mountaineer Kev Reynolds. In Kev’s words: ‘Walt called me one day with an invitation to write a guide to Europe’s second major range west of the Caucasus.’
Having never used a guidebook before, Kev first had to research the kind of information required, before gathering 100 routes for Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees, which appeared in 1978. Forty years on, it is still in print, having grown through many editions and updates from a modest 128 pages with a small selection of black-and-white photos and line drawings by Brian Evans, to a bulky 412-page tome with colour illustrations throughout.
Winter Climbs Ben Nevis and Glencoe
The first edition of this guide cost a princely sum of 8 shillings (40p). A fairly big investment in the early 1970s for a small black and white booklet when 40p would have been worth the equivalent of £7 today. Seven editions and several authors on, and the current edition of Winter Climbs has a retail price of £16.95, has no less than 384 full colour pages and weighs a hefty 500 grams! Quite a bargain in comparison.
Scrambles in the Lake District
The first edition of Scrambles, written by co-founder Brian Evans, was published in 1982, to be followed a few years later by the imaginatively titled More Scrambles in the Lake District. Although nearly all of the routes remain, the two volumes were chopped and reorganised to create a more workable ‘north’ and ‘south’ division between two books.
These are just four examples of guidebooks that have had a very long and successful history. There are many more, including GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route, Via Ferratas in the Dolomites, June Parker’s Walking in Mallorca, which first appeared in 1986, Chamonix to Zermatt in 1991, Hadrian’s Wall Path in 1993 and the GR11 through the Spanish Pyrenees in 1996.
We’re proud of our quirkier books, though, even if they didn’t survive beyond just one print run. We remember with fondness… Caves, Potholes and Mines of Derbyshire, The Douglas Valley Way, Field Excursions in north-west England, Kinder Log, London Theme Walks, Oz Rock, Ski the Nordic Way, Rock Climbs in the Verdon and Classic Tramps in New Zealand.
Guidebooks are like old friends, they stick around through adversity, always doing their best to help and be faithful. A great guidebook is one that has been loved, enjoyed, abused, dropped, ripped, written in and become dog-eared with time. Don’t let them stay on the shelves unloved and unused. But if you are going to use one, do try to make sure you have an up-to-date edition – if there is one!
Images: the old covers compared with the books as they are today. Developments in design and technology have allowed for some great improvements!