This is a wonderful find for collectors of W.W. Denslow, the talented artist who illustrated the true first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Denslow was already an accomplished poster and book illustrator when he partnered with Baum in the late 1890s. This elaborate pen and ink drawing from the 1884 book “Twenty Years on the Road” is one of his earliest pieces of surviving original art. This humorous scene of a man wooing a young woman and confronted with the father was used as one of the larger illustrations in the book. Shown in one of the photos is the illustrated book page, as obtained from the New York Public Library. The piece is also nice as it shows not only Denslow’s fine line art but his method, as the initial drawing is sketched in a faint underlying blue line. It shows that he modified the style of the lettering in his final version. I believe the penciled “Move Effect” and the word “Mortice” (recess to make room for the text) in the top sky are probably in Denslow’s own hand. The piece is also signed “W* D *L”—one of the signatures he used during this period (the L probably standing for his partner Charles Lemon). “Reduce 1/2″ is also marked in pencil on the bottom, denoting the reduction size for final print. Den was only 28 when he drew this and while fame had not yet caught him, he had already worked successfully in advertising, newspaper and trade card design.
This piece measures 9.5×12.5”, on board, and It does have some loss at the left side just reaching the border, and a chip at top left. The Twenty Years on the Road booklet, extremely scarce, was published by the Philadelphia firm Baker & Hayes and is in Greene & Hearn’s W W Denslow checklist.