Young Man's Self-Directed Sketchbook of Progressive Drawing, 1893-96
Softcover, 9 x 12 inches. 26 pages of drawings over 21 leaves + 3 blanks, 24 leaves total. Front wrap torn away with consequent soil and wear to the first page, general wear around the corners and chipping to the back board with some loss and a shoeprint to boot. Chip at the bottom edge which persists through the textblock. Very fragile, Fair to Good. The twelfth drawing is dated January 1, 1893 and a later drawing is dated 1896, with six more drawings appearing afterward. Fragile, but a compelling and compact record student's development of drawing skills. Amidst a proliferation of drawing workbooks and art curricula, it's nice to see a sketchbook from the period that does not follow a curriculum.
An impressive development of skill, starts with geometric forms, odd animals, a classic house-in-a-field, a period of flourishing, cartography, architectural landscapes, and a gorgeous gorge. The artist's name is revealed in an ornamental flourish that appears straight out of the instructive penwork books that were popular at the time. According to his obituary, B. Elmer Neill (1880-1971) was a member of the first graduating class of Canonsburg High School in Washington County, Western Pennsylvania. He went on to graduate from Washington and Jefferson College and worked as a surveyor and civil engineer for Duquesne Light Co. for 40 years before going into business for himself.