Pages 16–17

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Jean de Brunhoff
(1899–1937)

Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (The Story of Babar), Maquette, pp. 16-17

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: 

Pourtant Babar n'est pas t[ou]t à fait heureux: il ne peut plus jouer dans la grande forêt avec ses petits cousins et ses amis les singes. Souvent à la fenêtre il rêve en pensant à la grande forêt et pleure en se rappelant sa maman. / Pendant ce temps 2 petits éléphants se sauvent loin de la forêt et courent de toutes leurs forces.

Translation: 

And yet Babar is not entirely happy: he can no longer play in the great forest with his little cousins and his friends, the monkeys. He often stands at the window thinking about the great forest, and he cries when he remembers his mother. / Meanwhile 2 little elephants escape faraway from the forest, running as fast as they can.

Published version: 


Pourtant Babar n'est pas tout à fait heureux: il ne peut plus jouer dans la grande forêt avec ses petits cousins et ses amis les singes. Souvent, à la fenêtre, il rêve en pensant à son enfance, et pleure en se rappelant sa maman.

And yet Babar is not entirely happy, for he can no longer play in the great forest with his little cousins and his friends, the monkeys. He often stands at the window, thinking of his childhood, and cries when he remembers his mother.

Note: p. 17 of the maquette does not appear in the published edition.