The Penrose Annual was published from 1895 until 1982. It was published annually (with a hiatus during the two world wars). It is a chronicle of design and print technology in the preceeding year.
The appeal for me is that these books are like time capsules. Not only can you read about typography, graphic design and print technology from the era, you can see samples of contemporary work. It might be a plastic chocolate bar wrapper, a sheet of Japanese newsprint, some card stock used for printing menus at The Savoy. The samples are bound into the book.
The Penrose Annual is an enticing and tactile read. I have two (1950 and 1960) – I want them all.
Here are some pages I scanned to illustrate the artistic inspiration within. These patterns are taken from the 1950 edition. In particular I like the incredibly groovy retro designs of Enid Marx (2nd cousin to Karl Marx and a well-respected designer who worked on book covers for Chatto and Windus).