Contes de ma mère l'Oye

This is the original manuscript of the Tales of Mother Goose, attributed to Charles Perrault (1628–1702). Dated 1695, it contains the earliest written versions of, and illustrations for, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Bluebeard, and Diamonds and Toads (Cinderella is absent). The stories as we find them here must be admired more for the artistry with which they are presented than their originality. Each of the tales undoubtedly had its origins in folklore and was passed down in oral tradition. “Contes da ma mere l’Oye” seems to have been a traditional term for such stories in France.

This oral tradition is charmingly portrayed in the illustration for the frontispiece, where we see a nurse telling stories to her young charges sitting by the fire. Fairy tales as a literary genre became popular at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, and this manuscript is in fact dedicated top one of his young nieces, Elisabeth Charlotte d”Orleans. While much of the fairytale literature produced during Louis’s reign is characterized by elegance of language and courtly embellishments, the text of this manuscript is exceptional in its simple, economical style in which every sentence is important to the development of the story.

Charles Perrault
Contes de ma mere l'Oye
Manuscript in a scribal hand, dated 1695
Purchased as a gift of the Fellows, 1953
MA 1505