March 5, 2013
Slideshow: Will H. Bradley and Little Magazines in America
by Kirsten Reach
In Russet and Siver was published by Stone & Kimball in October 1894.
Known as “The Twins,” Bradley’s first poster for The Chap-Book featured two women styled after Aubrey Beardsley’s Yellow Book work. His design was criticized by the press: “The very funniest thing out is the ‘Chap-Book’ poster. No mortal man can possibly tell without deliberately investigating, what it means or what it represents. Ten feet away one would be willing to make an oath that it was a verry, very red turkey gobbler very poorly represented. On closer inspection it seems to have been intended for two human beings, one at least being in a red gown very short at both ends. The remaining characteristics are very lightly outlined, hence the turkey gobbler aspect when seen a few feet away.” (American Printer, Dec 1894)
Bradley’s second design for The Chap-Book, known as “The Blue Lady.” Bradley is credited with popularizing the two-dimensional poster style in the U.S.
Bradley’s design for Inland Printer garnered interest from the American Type Founders, who licensed the lettering design and issued a blackletter typeface ‘Bradley.’
The interior design for an issue of The Philistine, run by Elbert Hubbard.
Another Christmas design for Inland Printer.
Another intricate design for Inland Printer.
The first issue of Bradley: His Book was published in May, 1896. Bradley served as illustrator, editor, typographer, designer, and press manager of Wayside Press. It was a successful venture, but the stress of the work led Bradley to collapse at age 28. He had no choice but to sell the press.
A Chicago artist defended Bradley in 1896, saying, “The people who still scoff at posters and poster collecting (and they are not a few), should bear in mind two things: First, that the great periods of art were those in which it allied itself most intimately with the daily life of the people… Second, that many of the best artists have devoted their serious attention to the subject of the poster, and that therefore, we laymen should give serious attention and intelligent appreciation to their work in this line.”
This Overman Wheel Co. advertisement was in circulation around 1896. Bradley trained as a printer’s apprentice beginning at age twelve, moving later to Chicago to work with wood block typography and illustration.
Frederick Stokes published Stephen Crane’s War Is Kind in 1899. This was Crane’s second collection of poetry, and it was published less than a year before his death.
A guide to typography by Will Bradley.
Published in 1905, the rather cumbersome title of this volume is, The Delectable Art of Printing: Called Also, The Printer Man’s Joy: Treating of the Origination and Founding of Chap-Book Borders and Ornaments. To Which is Added a List of the Types & Characters.
Bradley’s bold typographic style is evident in Waterloo’s The Story of Ab, published in 1905. Bradley brought Caslon type back into popularity. All of his typography is catalogued here.
Harriet Monroe’s The Dance of the Seasons was published by Ralph Fletchey Seymour Co. in 1911.
It’s easy to see why Bradley was the highest-paid designer in his time. Shimmering in gold leaf, The Romance of Zion Chapel is prominently displayed in the Grolier Club exhibit.
The Grolier Club is hosting a free exhibit, American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print, from February 20-March 27. Featuring magazines such as The Philistine, the Bibelot, the Chap-Book, M’lle New York and The Echo, it aims to tell a story about American literary, artistic, and social life around the turn of the 20th Century. The curator is Kirsten MacLeod, a professor from Newcastle University.
Dozens of small magazines, each appearing to mock the last, line the walls of the exhibition with social papers, politics, and poetry. There’s a marvelous stand-alone section on the many magazines that made fun of Stephen Crane, including a rhyming poem mocking his modern verses and the amount he was paid (thirty-five cents per line). Did you know that The Society of the Philistines once hosted him for a roast, inviting hundreds of guests, and only twenty or so people showed up? In the letters displayed, it’s clear he was rather gracious about it. Kate Chopin and Booth Tarkington are mentioned in the exhibit as well.
But viewers will get a stronger sense of the magazines’ aesthetic than the editorial content, and a highlight are the covers designed by Will H. Bradley. Deemed “dean of American design,” by the Saturday Evening Post, Bradley was one of the premiere graphic designers of his time. His work was instrumental in popularizing the art nouveau style in the U.S.
The draw of national advertising was enough to inspire publishers to found about 7,500 periodicals in America between 1885 and 1905. Newsstand sales outweighed subscription services, and innovative covers added to newsstand appeal. It became popular to collect magazine posters in the 1890s. Bradley was the highest-paid designer of his time, and he is credited with popularizing the two-dimensional poster in the States. Bradley also founded his own magazine, Bradley His Book, in 1896.
If you’d like to learn more about the Little Magazine exhibit, two talks are coming up:
On March 13, 6-7:30 pm, Philip R. Bishop, bookseller, rare books specialist, author, and expert on the Mosher Press, will talk about Thomas Mosher‘s importance in the little magazine movement. This will be followed by a Collectors’ Forum featuring Philip R. Bishop, Mark Samuels Lasner, David W. Lowden, and Jean-François Vilain, lenders to the exhibition, who will discuss their collections and the place of little magazines of the 1890s within them. On March 28, 5-7 pm, there will be a symposium on American Little Magazines of the 1890s featuring talks by Johanna Drucker (UCLA), Brad Evans (Rutgers University), David Weir (Cooper Union), and Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University).
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.