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. 32–33
« Voilà le roi que nous cherchions » dire[nt] les plus vieux des éléphants. Le plus vieux de tous dit à Babar « Voulez vous être notre Roi? » « Je veux bien, dit Babar, mais je veux aussi que Céleste soit ma femme et votre reine. » « Vive Babar I Vive Céleste » crièrent tous les éléphants. / Quelques jours après Babar envoye [i.e., envoie] à tous les animaux cette invitation: « Nous Babar I, roi des éléphants, vous invitons à venir assister à notre mariage avec notre cousine Céleste et aux fêtes de notre couronnement. »
"Here is the king we have been searching for," say the oldest elephants. The oldest one of all says to Babar, "Would you like to be our King?" "I would like that very much," says Babar, "but I would also like Celeste to be my wife and your queen." "Long live Babar I, Long live Celeste," all the elephants shouted. / A few days later Babar sends this invitation to all the animals: "We, Babar I, king of the elephants, invite you to attend our marriage to our cousin Celeste and our coronation festivities."
Alors Cornélius le plus vieux des éléphants dit de sa voix tremblante: « Mes bons amis, nous cherchons un roi, pourquoi ne pas choisir Babar? Il revient de la ville, il a beaucoup appris chez les hommes. Donnons lui la couronne. » Tous les éléphants trouvent que Cornélius a très bien parlé. Impatients, ils attendent la réponse de Babar. / « Je vous remercie tous, dit alors ce dernier, mais avant d'accepter, je dois vous dire que, pendant notre voyage en auto, Céleste et moi nous nous sommes fiancés. Si je suis votre roi, elle sera votre reine. » / « Vive la reine Céleste! / Vive le roi Babar!!! » crient tous les éléphants sans hésiter. Et c'est ainsi que Babar devint roi.
Then Cornelius, the oldest of all the elephants, says in his quavering voice: "My good friends, we are seeking a king. Why not choose Babar? He has just returned from the city, he has learned so much living among men, let us give him the crown." All the other elephants think that Cornelius has spoken wisely, and they eagerly await Babar's reply. / "I want to thank you one and all," said Babar, "but before accepting your proposal, I must explain to you that, while we were traveling in the car, Celeste and I became engaged. If I become your king, she will be your queen." / "Long live Queen Celeste! Long live King Babar!!!" cry all the elephants without a moment's hesitation. And thus it was that Babar became king.