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. 24–25
Les mamans ont retrouvé Céleste, Arthur, et Babar. Elles sont bien contentes, mais elles le gronde[nt] tout de même. / Elles leur disent que demain, pas plus tard, elles les remmèneront dans la grande forêt. Si Babar n'était pas triste de laisser la vie[ille] son amie la vieille dame, il serait très content de partir.
The mothers have found Celeste, Arthur, and Babar. They are very happy but scold them just the same. / They tell them that tomorrow, no later, they will take them back to the great forest. If Babar were not sad about leaving the O[ld] his friend, the Old Lady, he would be very glad to be going.
Les mamans d'Arthur et de Céleste sont venues les chercher à la ville. Elles sont bien contentes de les retrouver, mais elles les grondent tout de même parce qu'ils se sont sauvés.
The mothers of Arthur and Celeste have come to the town to fetch them. They are very happy to have them back, but they scold them just the same because they ran away.