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. 6–7
Vite il va Babar va vite dans un grand magasin. Il entre dans l'ascenseur. Il trouve si amusant de monter et de descendre dans cette drôle de boîte, qu'il mont[e] 10 fois tout en haut, descend 10 fois tout en bas. Il allait continuer quand le monsieur [inserted: le groom de l'ascenseur, garçon de l'ascenseur] qui fait marcher l'ascenseur lui dit: «Ce n'est pas un joujou, monsieur l'éléphant, maintenant il faut sortir pour acheter ce que vous voulez. Justement voilà le chef de rayon.»
Quickly he goes Quickly Babar goes into a big store. He enters the elevator. It is such fun to ride up and down in this funny box that he goes all the way up 10 times and all the way down 10 times. He was going to continue when the man who runs elevator [inserted: the elevator operator, the elevator boy] says to him, "This is not a toy, Mr. Elephant. You must get out now and do your shopping. Look, here is the floorwalker."
Sans perdre une minute Babar va dans un grand magasin. Il entre dans l'ascenseur. Il trouve si amusant de monter et de descendre dans cette drôle de boite, qu'il monte dix fois tout en haut, descend dix fois tout en bas. Il allait continuer quand le groom de l'ascenseur lui dit: «Ce n'est pas un joujou, monsieur l'éléphant, maintenant il faut sortir pour acheter ce que vous voulez, justement voilà le chef de rayon.»
Without wasting any time, Babar goes into a big store. He enters the elevator. It is such fun to ride up and down in this funny box, that he rides all the way up ten times and all the way down ten times. He was going to continue but the elevator boy finally says to him: "This is not a toy, Mr. Elephant. You must get out and do your shopping. Look, here is the floorwalker."