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. 30–31
C'est alors que Babar arrive dans la grande forêt avec son auto, Céleste et Arthur. Tous les éléphants les trouve[nt] si beaux avec leurs beaux costumes et leur auto qu'ils crient tous: « Bravo / Bravo / Vive Arthur / Vive Babar / Vive Céleste / Qu'ils sont beaux / Vive le Roi »
Just then Babar arrives in the great forest with his car, Celeste, and Arthur. All the elephants think they look so nice in their fine clothes and their car that they all shout: "Bravo / Bravo / Long live Arthur / Long live Babar / Long live Celeste / Don't they look wonderful / Long live the king"
Juste à ce moment ils entendent du bruit, ils se retournent. Qu'est-ce qu'ils voient! Babar qui arrive dans son auto et tous les éléphants qui courent en criant: « Les voilà! Les voilà! Ils sont revenus! Bonjour Babar! Bonjour Arthur! Bonjour Céleste! Quels beaux costumes! Quelle belle auto! »
Just then they hear a noise. They turn around. Guess what they see! Babar arriving in his car and all the elephants running and shouting: "Here they are! Here they are! They have returned! Hello, Babar! Hello, Arthur! Hello, Celeste! What beautiful clothes! What a beautiful car!"