As an art and graphic design student I often pored over the Penrose Annual collection in the art school library. They were a treasure trove of printing techniques, typeface designs, advertising artwork and illustrations, and I would be enthralled as I turned the pages.
I couldn’t believe my luck recently when I found a copy of the Golden Jubilee Penrose Annual in a second-hand book store, and I gladly parted with the $10 needed to call it my own!
The Penrose Annual was an acclaimed graphic arts journal that was published in London
The Penrose Annual was a printing and graphic arts journal that was published almost annually from 1895 to 1982. A London-based publication, it documented an incredible range of printing and design techniques, and remains today as beautiful source of design inspiration.
Steve Hare at Eye Magazine describes the Penrose Annual as a publication “by printers, for printers” that was “a one-off, in every sense”. Every edition was fastidiously approached as a unique creation. Steve Hare writes:
Its design and production needed to be planned with military precision; it was a complex and demanding publication that drew on, and demonstrated in its pages and inserts, every innovative technique, material and idea that had emerged in the course of the previous year. Sections to be bound in would arrive throughout the year from printers all over the world. There were tip-ins, fold-outs, different paper stocks, inks, artwork and processes to dissect and present, and advertising copy that more often than not needed binding in separately. And as a showcase not only for the printers themselves but the whole international industry, it had to be immaculately presented, printed and bound. A small staff spent the entire twelve months planning, compiling and producing it; and the printers, who were also its publishers, Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, would dovetail its production into their normal schedule . . . the industry would eagerly await its appearance and make investment decisions largely on what Penrose advised.
In the preface to the Jubilee edition, editor R.B. Fishenden also emphasises the team-work that went into each edition, and writes that “the shaping and fabrication of every volume is an adventure. Each is the outcome of a wonderful co-operative spirit . . . Our authors and our many friends bring fresh enthusiasm each year to help in giving the Annual its stamina and momentum”.