Published: September 13, 2005
The Morgan Library has acquired the manuscript and illustrations of The Story of Babar the Little Elephant (originally published in French as Historie de Babar le petit elephant, 1931) by Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937) and the illustrations for Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur (published as Babar et Ce Coquin d’Arthur, 1946) by Laurent de Brunhoff (born 1925). This story of a baby elephant, cruelly orphaned, who has adventures in civilization and eventually returns to the jungle to become king of all the elephants, was Jean de Brunhoff’s first book. Babar’s Cousin was the first book written and illustrated entirely by Jean’s son, Laurent. Babar began as a bedtime story invented by Cecile de Brunhoff for her sons Laurent and Mathieu. Her husband, Jean de Brunhoff, an accomplished painter in the impressionist tradition, expanded, illustrated and published the tale in 1931 as The Story of Babar. Over the next years, de Brunhoff wrote six more Babar books until his untimely death in 1937. The series lapsed until his elder son, Laurent, who was an abstract painter, took up the story. Since his father died before completing the paintings for Babar and Father Christmas (English edition, 1940), Laurent finished the paintings for a few pages of this book and designed the cover. He published Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur (English edition, 1948) at the age of 21. Since then, Laurent de Brunhoff has produced more than 30 books about Babar and his family and friends. The collection includes the dummy with cover, many of theoriginal illustrations and the text for the original edition ofHistoire de Babar in addition to Jean de Brunhoff’s notes on colorfor his illustrations; pencil and watercolor studies; a sketchbookof watercolor, pen and pencil drawings and two differentillustrations for the cover.
Materials related to Babar’s Cousin include the preliminary design and layout for the book in pencil, pen and water-color; black line drawings; watercolor drawings over black line proofs; and color studies. Perhaps the most exciting item in this collection is the one that looks the most humble: the earliest plan for the Babar book (91/2 by 6 inches) with 44 pages of pencil and watercolor sketches and the original text. Though the drawings are rough, the spirit of the final version is already evident. The title page of this first draft lists Cecile de Brunhoff as the coauthor. According to Laurent de Brunhoff, his mother requested that his father be listed as sole author of the published version. The Morgan plans to display the Babar materials after its reopening in spring 2006. The library is at 29 East 36th Street. For information, 212-685-0008 or morganlibrary.org.
For information, 212-685-0008 or morganlibrary.org.
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