Will H. Bradley

Will H. Bradley (1868-1962), a native Bostonian who spent a large part of his life in Chicago, was one of the most successful American artists working at the turn of the century. He is described as both the “American Aubrey Beardsley” and the “Dean of American Design.” Although chiefly recognized today for his Art Nouveau posters, he also designed books, magazines, and typography, and published the short-lived but highly influential literary and art periodical, Bradley, His Book. The visual cohesion between his advertising posters and book designs increased the marketing potential for his works. Through his broad range of experience in the publishing world, including training as a typographer and engraver, Bradley intimately understood the evolving nature of the industry. He adroitly shifted his talents to photomechanical reproduction when engraving fell out of fashion. Initially heavily influenced by William Morris’s medieval designs, Bradley also referenced later stylistic developments including Japonisme and Art Nouveau.

 

 

Fringilla, or Tales in Verse Fringilla, or Tales in Verse

Fringilla, or Tales in Verse, by R.D. Blackmore (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1895)
Designed by Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

For the American publication of R.D. Blackmore’s Fringilla, Bradley was given complete creative control over the entire production, including cover design, illustrations, page ornaments, typeface, and page layouts. Bradley’s Fringilla is directly influenced by the philosophy of integrated design, advanced by William Morris and his Kelmscott Press, which is apparent in the foliated borders. A contemporary review of the book hailed it as Bradley’s “most complete and perfect production.” However, Blackmore was dismissive of it, claiming it was over-decorated and designed solely for collectors. Morris often faced similar criticism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poster for Fringilla, or Tales in Verse

Fringilla, or Tales in Verse, 1895
Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)

Two-color commercial lithograph
Gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1977
DAM 1977-296

This poster was produced in conjunction with the American edition of Blackmore’s Fringilla. It repeats design elements from the book, including the red and black lettering, medievalized borders and typeface, and wood-engraved images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest of the Golden Girl

The Quest of the Golden Girl, by Richard Le Gallienne (London and New York: John Lane, 1896)
Binding designed by Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

British publisher John Lane opened a New York office in 1896, and this is one of the first books he issued in America. Bradley’s repeating pattern of the golden girl with stylized hair, stamped in gold on green cloth, suggests the influence of Housman, particularly the design for Goblin Market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bradley: His Book (Volume 1, number 1) Bradley: His Book (Volume 1, number 1)

Bradley, His Book, Volume 1, Number 1, by Will H. Bradley (Springfield, Massachusetts: Wayside Press, 1896)
Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Bradley was only able to produce his magazine from 1896-97 due to the labor intensive process its production required. Despite its short run, it was particularly impactful and served as a model for private press cultural journals.

Bradley’s design for the poem “The Night Blooming Cereus” by Harriet Moore is very similar to Morris’ style, with its double-page spread, Jenson type, and red lettering. The elaborate, highly dense design, which almost overshadows the text, indicates Beardsley’s influence as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School for Saints

The School for Saints, by John Oliver Hobbes (New York: F.A. Stokes Co., 1897)
Binding designed by Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

Although this cover feels a bit visually unbalanced, Bradley subtly references the text, and the design is echoed in his frontispiece. Stamped onto textured cloth, the cover also has interesting tactile qualities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Romance of Zion Chapel

The Romance of Zion Chapel, by Richard Le Gallienne (London and New York: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1898)
Binding designed by Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)
M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum

British publisher John Lane advertised his publications as “Chic Books for Chic Readers,” and Bradley’s stylized pictorial design embodies that manifesto. The style is so Beardsley-like that Bradley’s monogram “B” is often misidentified as being for Beardsley. Bradley claimed that the high cost of producing this book, due to the extensive amount of gold leaf on the cover, “broke John Lane’s heart.”

 

 

 

 

 

Poster for The Chap-Book: Being a Miscellany of Curious and Interesting Songs

The Chap-Book: Being a Miscellany of Curious and Interesting Songs, 1895
Will H. Bradley (1868-1962)

Commercial lithograph
Gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1977
DAM 1977-325

The Chap-Book, published from 1894-1898, was a literary periodical produced during a moment of increasing pamphlets pertaining to cultural, literary, and artistic movements. Bradley produced a variety of advertising posters for The Chap-Book and for other literary magazines.

Will H. Bradley