Our annual holiday blog post turns this year to a “little magazine” from the Salisbury House Library, entitled The American Chap-Book: Christmas, A.D. MCMIV by William H. Bradley. As its whimsical cover suggests, this little book is a delight.
A peek inside the front cover reveals Carl Weeks’ book-plate (nearly all of the books in the Library collection contain this book-plate):
And the following page immerses us into the marvelous world of Mr. William H. Bradley.
Bradley’s diminutive booklet (it measures 4″ x 7″) combines his essay on “Appropriateness” relative to type composition in advertising, alongside selected examples and various Christmas greetings.
Suffice it to say that, on the subject of typography and design, Bradley had strong feelings. Born in 1868 in Massachussetts, Bradley began working in a printer’s workshop at the age of twelve after his father’s death. He later moved to Chicago for a short period of time. His sojourn in the Midwest produced The Chap-Book, a forerunner to The American Chap-Book. Although the publication ran only from 1894-1898, its influence was immense. Bradley’s design for the cover of an 1894 Chap-Book, entitled “The Twins,” also produced in poster form, is considered by many to be the first American Art Nouveau poster.
After a few years in Chicago, Bradley returned to New England and worked independently. He established The Wayside Press in 1896 and, among other things, published Bradley: His Book. He described it as, “a little magazine of interesting reading, interspersed with various bits of art, and privately printed at the Wayside Press[,] Springfield, Mass.”
The publication was successful, but Bradley was eventually forced to sell the press because of health concerns. After regaining his strength, Bradley continued his work. He relaunched The Chap-Book as The American Chap-Book in 1904, in association with the American Type Founders Association.
Bradley became increasingly well-known through the rest of his career as an illustrator and designer. He later dabbled in film as well. The Saturday Evening Post eventually named him the “Dean of American Designers,” and he died in 1962.
His talent and panache shines through the pages of this little Christmas American Chap-Book in the Salisbury House Library. Each page has been scanned and included below. Happy holidays!
Note: The Salisbury House Library Collection is now housed at Grinnell College, where it is being digitized and studied. To learn more about the collection check out the Special Collections Website.