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.
The maquette is part of a collection of drafts and drawings for Histoire de Babar acquired by The Morgan Library & Museum in 2004 as the 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.
Maquette, pp. 4–5
Dans la rue il voit Babar voit des messieurs. Il trouve qu'ils sont vraiment très bien habillés. Il voudrait bien avoir aussi un beau costume—mais comment ? faire? / Heureusement une vieille dame très riche qui aimait beaucoup les petits éléphants voyant son embarras lui donne son porte-monnaie. Babar lui dit: « Merci, madame. »
He sees Babar sees some gentlemen on the street. He thinks they are really very well dressed. He, too, would very much like to have such fine clothes—but how? can he do it? Luckily, a very rich old lady who has always been fond of little elephants sees his problem and gives him her purse. Babar says to her, "Thank you, ma'am."
Que de choses nouvelles! Ces belles avenues! Ces autos et ces autobus! Pourtant ce qui intéresse le plus Babar, ce sont deux messieurs qu'il rencontre dans la rue. Il pense: « Vraiment ils sont très bien habillés. Je voudrais bien avoir aussi un beau costume. . . . » Mais comment faire??? / Heureusement une vieille dame très riche, qui aimait beaucoup les petits éléphants, comprend en le regardant qu'il a envie d'un bel habit. Comme elle aime faire plaisir elle lui donne son porte-monnaie. Babar lui dit: « Merci, Madame. »
So many things are new to him! The broad streets! The automobiles and buses! However, Babar is especially interested in two gentlemen he notices on the street. He says to himself: "Really, they are very well dressed. I would like to have some fine clothes, too. . . . " But how can he do it??? / Luckily, a very rich old lady who has always been fond of little elephants understands right away that he is longing for a fine suit. As she likes to make people happy, she gives him her purse. Babar says to her, "Thank you, ma'am."