American artist and illustrator Will H. Bradley (1868-1962) had a marked impact on fine and commercial graphic arts in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He contributed to the growth of the graphic arts in the United States and influenced developments in illustration and layout practices in the book and periodical arts. Bradley began his career by working as a printer, from which he moved on to designing borders and illustrations for a variety of newspapers, periodicals, and books. He was also particularly acclaimed for his poster art. (Looking back on his career, Bradley wrote that he was always interested in being an artist, and that he had first pursued printing as a means to this end.) In 1895, Bradley founded the Wayside Press in Springfield, Massachusetts, with the intention of designing and overseeing every aspect of a book’s design and publication. During this time he published a monthly arts periodical, Bradley: His Book. In 1897 Bradley suffered a nervous and physical breakdown from overwork, having been overwhelmed by the strain of the sheer number of projects he was trying to complete. He sold his press to John Wilson & Son of the University Press the following year, having concluded that he could no longer manage the press on his own. Bradley’s artistic output remained immense, though, and he continued to produce a great variety of art for books, magazines, posters, trade catalogs, and advertisements. From 1917 to 1930 he worked for William Randolph Hearst, producing films and magazines for Hearst’s organization. Although Bradley officially retired from the Hearst organization in 1930, he remained an active and important member of the graphic arts world for the rest of his long life.
Gordon Pfeiffer (University of Delaware, BE '56) had a successful forty-year career in banking, from which he retired as senior vice president of Mellon Bank. In 1977, he co-founded the Delaware Bibliophiles and has been an active member of the Board of the University of Delaware Library Associates since 1979, including serving as President from 1982-1985. In 2014, Gordon A. Pfeiffer began donating his collection of Will Bradley material to the University of Delaware Library. Throughout the book, library, and collecting worlds, Pfeiffer is a renowned collector of books and ephemera, and he has long been a generous donor to the University of Delaware Library. Gordon Pfeiffer’s Will Bradley collection contains a great variety of books, periodicals, prints, ephemera, and artifacts, spanning the whole of Will H. Bradley’s long and productive career. The size and scope is so vast that the items on display in the exhibition gallery can only represent a fraction of the great wealth of materials found in Pfeiffer’s collection.
This exhibition celebrates Gordon Pfeiffer's generous gift to the University of Delaware Library and highlights one of the world’s premier collections of the work of Will H. Bradley.
Exhibition curated by Alexander Johnston and Jaime Margalotti. Exhibition site created by Dustin Frohlich.