Pages 18–19

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Jean de Brunhoff

Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (The Story of Babar), Maquette, pp. 18-19

Wax crayon and graphite
8 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches (21 x 16 cm)

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, 2004

MA 6304
Item description: 

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.


Et un beau jour, pendant la promenade avec la vieille dame, Babar voit venir à sa rencontre 2 petits éléphants tout nus. / Babar reconnaît alors ses cousins Arthur et Céleste. Ils s'embrassent tous bien heureux. Arthur et Céleste s'étaient sauvés pour chercher Babar parce qu'ils avaient trop de chagrin depuis qu'il était parti et qu'ils avaient trop envie de jouer avec lui de nouveau.


And one fine day, during his walk with the Old Lady, Babar sees 2 little elephants, completely naked, coming toward him. / Babar then recognizes his cousins Arthur and Celeste. They kiss each other joyously. Arthur and Celeste had run away to look for Babar because they were upset after he had left, and they wanted very much to play with him once again.

Published version: 

Deux années ont passé. Un jour pendant sa promenade il voit venir à sa rencontre deux petits éléphants tout nus. «Mais c'est Arthur et Céleste, mon petit cousin et ma cousine!» dit-il stupéfait à la vieille dame. / Babar embrasse Arthur et Céleste puis il va leur acheter de beaux costumes.

Two years have passed. One day during his walk he sees two little elephants, completely naked, coming toward him. "Why," he says in astonishment to the Old Lady, "it's Arthur and Celeste, my little cousins!" / Babar kisses Arthur and Celeste and goes to buy them some fine clothes.