Christopher Bradshaw

Designer at Eyre & Spottiswoode

The wine Society is the oldest wine society in the world. As the International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society, it was founded in 1874 by a small group of friends to provide a home for wine left after the closing of the Fourth Annual International Exhibition in London.

Christopher John Chalton Bradshaw, graphic designer: born Kew, Surrey 18 August 1920; designer and director, Eyre & Spottiswoode 1953-85; Treasurer, International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society 1971-76, Chairman 1987-92; Chairman, Galpin Society, 1992-99; married 1949 Val Fouracre (one son, two daughters); died London 3 June 2004.

The wine Society is the oldest wine society in the world. As the International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society, it was founded in 1874 by a small group of friends to provide a home for wine left after the closing of the Fourth Annual International Exhibition in London.

It remained a relatively small group until about 1970, but now numbers - thanks in great part to the contribution of Christopher Bradshaw - some 90,000 active members. Bradshaw had joined it as an ordinary "consumer", with no special knowledge of the wine trade, but was drawn deeper into it through his métier as a graphic designer. Asked by Edmund Penning-Rowsell to redesign its antiquated printing, he gave it a new and elegant "logo", as well as new stationery, catalogues and, above all, bottle-labels. The success of the new look was not only a major factor in the society's growth, but had a wider impact in the realisation by the wine trade worldwide that attractive labels sold more bottles.

Christopher Bradshaw was the eldest son of Harold Bradshaw, an architect, and Mary Taylor, a classical archaeologist, who met at the British School in Rome and married in 1918. Their three children grew up in an atmosphere of enquiry and innovation: Christopher, the eldest, born in 1920, took the lead, closely followed by Julian, later a physicist working on metal fatigue at RAF Farnborough, and Anthony, who became Professor of Botany at Liverpool.

From St Paul's, he went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1939 on a senior scholarship to read Classics. Although there is a drawing of him as a child reading a Latin text for pleasure, a habit that never left him, he might easily have become a scientist. Photography, with the best camera he could afford and developing and printing himself, was a passion shared with Julian, as was sailing - they bought and carefully restored the Firefly in which they won a silver cup at the annual regatta on Hickling Broad in 1936. Playing recorders too was a joint pastime, from which Christopher went on to the oboe, making his own reeds. He also built a toy theatre of amazing complexity, making footlights, spotlights and machinery, and produced a family magazine.

At Cambridge he got a First in part one of the tripos, but one day at the University Air Squadron he was told there was "a special job for a few people who had flexible minds and who could learn quickly". He spent the next three years flying in a special night-fighter squadron as a radio navigator, using a primitive box of electronics to deliver radar images of unseen and unseeing enemy bombers. He flew first in lumbering Beaufighters, and then in the beautiful new Mosquitos, whose innovative all-wood construction, made possible by the new ultra-strong urea-formaldehyde glues, delighted him.

He went back to Cambridge in 1946, but academic life had lost its edge; he changed to English, but lacking background only took a Second; reading C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards's The Meaning of Meaning made more impression on him. In 1947 he got a job that caught his imagination with Cema (the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts), a forerunner of the Arts Council; as an organiser for the South-West he spent his time arranging concerts and exhibitions. In 1949 he married, and needing a less itinerant job moved to Newman Neame, one of the new publishing firms set up after the Second World War, with a bent towards maritime books, what was then not called "packaging" and good design.

It was this last that attracted him. He already wrote a fine upright italic hand, and the family magazine had given him a notion of what was involved. Quite soon he was put in charge of design and production, and spent three years there designing books and learning about the mechanics of printing them. His eye was then caught by an advertisement by Eyre & Spottiswoode, the Queen's printers but also a large publishing and printing combine, for a post in charge of design at the Chiswick Press, another ancient and famous firm, founded by Charles Whittingham, printer of the Pickering "Diamond Classics".

He was interviewed, and got the job. For the next 30 years Bradshaw worked for Eyre & Spottiswoode, from 1958 as Director of the Chiswick Press and later with added responsibility as Design Director for all the group's printing outlets, including the Thanet Press, letterpress printers at Margate, and the Grosvenor Press, lithographers at Portsmouth. Any work that came to the press, already designed or not, got the benefit of his eye and advice. If he preferred unobtrusive clarity for most purposes, he knew when a striking effect was required and could produce it.

Immediately, he produced a series of "specimen books", illustrating the types and ornaments available at the Chiswick Press. These were themselves a model of clear and elegant design; they also revealed the wealth of historic material of the press, the "Basle" and "Caxton" types made for it in the 19th century, and the even older initials and vignettes cut to designs by the Byfield family for Whittingham. These specimens helped him to bring in a wide variety of work, from books to posters, and his light airy office at 2 Serjeants' Inn, newly rebuilt after the war, became a Mecca for those who felt as he did about design for print.

Always resourceful, he was not thrown when Eyre & Spottiswoode decided to close the premises of the Chiswick Press, by then in north London, in 1962. He saw to it that the historic material was properly bestowed. One of the first iron presses designed by the inventor Earl Stanhope, the proprietary types and the Byfield initials and vignettes, went to the St Bride Printing Library nearby. Reams of paper made for William Morris's Kelmscott Press with his watermark were given to those who might put it to good purpose. He was one of the small group that founded the Printing Historical Society in 1963.

But he was just as interested in the latest developments in printing. He was early involved in the use of computers for typesetting, and introduced high-resolution screens to improve the reproduction of illustrations. One of his achievements was the printing and publication of Michael Twyman's Printing 1770-1970 (1970), which began as a house history but expanded to cover all aspects of the mechanisation of printing trade; it was itself a showcase for the most recent technology.

In 1964 he wrote and published Design, a small book on the theory rather than practice of design, as original and useful now as then. His passionate interest in design education was evinced in his involvement with the Council for National Academic Awards, to promote it in polytechnics. He was also chairman of the education committee of the Society of Industrial Artists and of its working group on computer typography. In 1968 he became an External Examiner for the new BA course in Typography & Graphic Communication at Reading University, and later served on the governing body of the Central School of Art and Design, taking a particular interest in the Central Lettering Record established by Nicholas Biddulph.

From 1979 he withdrew a little from his involvement in Eyre & Spottiswoode. Already on the Wine Society's board of management since 1966, he became Treasurer and, from 1987 to 1992, succeeding Penning-Rowsell, Chairman. There he encouraged several innovations, including the doubling and modernisation of the warehouse space, and saw turnover reach £35m. He was then invited to become Chairman (he had long been a member) of the Galpin Society for the appreciation and preservation of historic musical instruments. Besides playing the oboe, bassoon, flute and harpsichord, in the 1960s he had restored a fortepiano by Clementi and then a grand piano, made c1820 by Stoddart. He joined fellow members at annual meetings all over Europe where old instruments were to be found, making new contacts that delighted him greatly.

No meeting with Bradshaw, in the chair or à deux, failed to lift the heart. His hair went white early, and he had a dent in his forehead (the result of being knocked off his motorbike en route home from Newman Neame), but, with black eyebrows, eyes and mouth always expressive, he never failed to stimulate, even provoke, all those he met. He had a great gift for seeing what others missed, magnifying glass at hand.

In 1999, crossing the road in Hampstead, north London, he was through no fault of his own knocked down by a car. This time he never really recovered from his injuries.

Nicolas Barker

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