Pages 14–15

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Jean de Brunhoff
(1899–1937)

Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (The Story of Babar), Maquette, pp. 14-15

ca.1930
Wax crayon and graphite
8 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches (21 x 16 cm)

Gift of Laurent, Mathieu, and Thierry de Brunhoff, and purchased with the assistance of The Florence Gould Foundation and the Acquisitions Fund, Fellows Endowment Fund, Gordon N. Ray Fund, and Heineman Fund, 2004

MA 6304
Item description: 

This digital facsimile presents every page of a small, delicate maquette that Jean de Brunhoff created in 1930 or 1931 as he drafted the first book in the Babar series. The maquette, an extraordinary handmade booklet complete with cover and endpapers, text and illustrations, is the prototype for Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant.

The maquette is written on Johannot et Cie Annonay paper cut down to a page size of 8 1/8 x 6 1/8 inches (20.5 x 15.5 cm) and folded to approximate a book. In some cases de Brunhoff wrote on separate sheets and then pasted them into the maquette, obscuring earlier drafts he had made on the versos. Written and illustrated primarily in graphite, the maquette includes a few watercolor touches and a cover colored in green, yellow, and red crayon. On separate sheets of paper of the same type and size, de Brunhoff also made eleven pages of notes on color choices for his final illustrations.

After he completed the maquette, de Brunhoff returned to his sketchbooks and made significant changes that are reflected in the published book. He continued to revise the text, added a page showing Babar studying with a learned tutor, and, most importantly, subjected the opening and closing of the story to a major overhaul. The maquette opens with the death of Babar's mother; however, de Brunhoff ultimately decided to add a tender three-page opening sequence showing the infant Babar in a hammock and a group of young elephants playing. And while the maquette concludes abruptly with the marriage and coronation of Babar and Celeste, the published book ends with the newly married couple reflecting on their good fortune before taking off for their honeymoon in a yellow balloon.

Transcription: 

Le soir après dîner, il raconte aux amis de la vieille dame sa vie dans la grande forêt. / Tous les jours il se promène dans l'auto que la vieille dame lui a acheté[e]. La vieille dame lui donne tout ce qu'il veut.

Translation: 

In the evening, after dinner, he tells the Old Lady's friends all about his life in the great forest. / Every day he goes for a ride in the car the Old Lady has bought for him. The Old Lady gives him whatever he wants.

Published version: 


Le soir, après dîner, il raconte aux amis de la vieille dame sa vie dans la grande forêt. / Tous les jours il se promène en auto. C'est la vieille dame qui la lui a achetée. Elle lui donne tout ce qu'il veut.

In the evening, after dinner, he tells the Old Lady's friends all about his life in the great forest. / He goes out for an automobile ride every day. The Old Lady has bought him the car. She gives him whatever he wants.