The Folio Society presents a glorious new edition of Lewis Carroll’s immortal tale, illustrated by acclaimed artist Charles van Sandwyk.
The Story of Babar
Illustrated by the author
Limited to 750 hand-numbered copies
Rarely seen archive material from The Morgan Library and a large-format first edition all reproduced in exquisite facsimile
‘We are completely blown away by the edition you’ve done of The Story of Babar!! It’s simply MAGNIFICENT. I’m almost afraid to touch it, it’s so beautiful! Many many thanks for all the splendid work that went into this!’
- Laurent de Brunhoff and Phyllis Rose
Limited to 750 copies numbered by hand on a certificate printed on green Marcate Nettuno paper
High quality reproductions of a first edition of Histoire de Babar, 61 sketches and de Brunhoff’s original maquette
Histoire de Babar 56 pages printed on Abbey Pure Paper
Sketches and maquette printed on Abbey Lynx Paper
Facsimile volume quarter-bound in cloth with paper sides
Sketches, maquette and limitation certificate presented in a portfolio quarter-bound in cloth with printed paper sides
Commentary 120 pages printed on Abbey Pure Paper
Essays by Faïza Guène, Adam Gopnik and Christine Nelson
Translation of Histoire de Babar by Christine Nelson and Sophie Lewis
Commentary volume quarter-bound in cloth with Plike paper sides
Facsimile, commentary and portfolio housed together in a presentation box quarter-bound in cloth with printed Marcate Nettuno paper sides and secured with green grosgrain ribbon
Presentation box: 14½" x 10½"x 2¼"
The story of Babar in a unique collectable edition
When Jean de Brunhoff’s young sons couldn’t sleep one night, their mother Cécile soothed them with the tale of an orphaned elephant called Babar. The boys were so captivated by her creation that they asked their artist father to illustrate the story. He obliged with a series of charming pencil sketches: the lightest of strokes perfectly depicting a frown, an ageing gait and, perhaps most memorably, Babar’s tears. Now in the care of The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and too fragile for permanent public display, these 61 sketches, along with de Brunhoff’s original hand-drawn mock-up book, or maquette, have been beautifully produced in facsimile for The Story of Babar collection. They mark the beginning of an incredible journey from bedtime story to one of the most memorable children’s books; a journey that is recreated in exquisite detail in this exclusive limited edition.
An exclusive celebration of Babar’s heritage
To escape the hunter who killed his mother, the young Babar seeks refuge in the city where he meets the benevolent Old Lady and is introduced to a world of tailored suits, fine dining and pampered living. One of the most influential books in the children’s canon, Histoire de Babar has all the hallmarks of a classic: anthropomorphic characters; adventures that bridge the familiar and the exotic; and a rewarding and happy ending. However, it is the perfect pairing of endearing narrative and exquisite illustrations that have ensured Babar’s longevity and universal appeal. Including reproductions of de Brunhoff’s preparatory sketches, his original handmade maquette and a first edition of the book, all presented in a beautiful box with ribbon fastening, the collection is limited to just 750 copies, each numbered by hand on a special certificate
Jean de Brunhoff: Turning a bedtime story into a celebrated series
The son of a publisher, Jean de Brunhoff was born into a world of books, but before following in his father’s footsteps he briefly fought on the front at the end of World War One. He went on to study painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaudière in Paris and embarked on a career as a professional artist and illustrator. It was a bedtime story told by his wife Cécile to two of their sons, Laurent and Mathieu, that led to worldwide acclaim. Six more books followed Histoire de Babar before de Brunhoff’s death at the age of just 37. After a six-year break, his son Laurent adopted the amiable elephant and continued his adventures, closely following de Brunhoff’s celebrated illustrative style. The multi-million best-selling series eventually ran to 45 books and Babar remains one of the best-known children’s characters in the world.
Babar’s magical journey
Jean de Brunhoff finessed the characters in his initial sketches and crafted a handmade mock-up of the completed story in which he perfected the rhythm of the pages. Also held by The Morgan Library, this intimate and rarely displayed maquette has been reproduced in facsimile exclusively for this edition. Nestled with the sketches inside special pockets in a portfolio folder quarter-bound in cloth, it shows Babar develop from pencil drawing to fully-formed book character. His final transformation occurs in the published Histoire de Babar. For this we turned to a first edition creating a perfect facsimile of the book first published in French in 1931.
Fascinating commentary volume
Illustrated with de Brunhoff’s sketches and exquisite page decorations, as well as researched paintings and photographs, the commentary volume brings together a selection of fascinating writing about Babar and Jean de Brunhoff. In her newly commissioned essay ‘The Go Between’, French writer and director Faïza Guène draws on her Algerian heritage to explore themes of integration in Histoire de Babar. We have also included American writer and New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik’s incisive essay ‘Freeing the Elephants’. Gopnik pays homage to ‘the happy effect that Babar has on us, and our imaginations’, and the beautifully simple drawings, ‘real small masterpieces of the faux-naïf’. The third essay is an in-depth and absorbing chronology of the character and his creator by Christine Nelson, Drue Heinz Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum. Finally, presented alongside thumbnail reproductions of each page, the sketch studies and maquette are annotated with references to the published book, and the story is given in both French and English in a new translation exclusive to this edition.
What makes this limited edition so special
When Folio Publishing Director Tom Walker noticed a Babar miniature in the office of Christine Nelson, Drue Heinz Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum, it sparked the idea for The Story of Babar. The fragile archives that trace the fascinating history of the little elephant are too delicate for permanent display but are bursting with colour and characterisation. The opportunity to own these rare literary treasures in facsimile is only available to collectors of this delightful limited edition.
The presentation box is quarter-bound in green cloth to match Babar’s famous suit and blocked in gold on the spine with the title and, of course, some playful elephants. The paper sides are printed with a design from de Brunhoff’s maquette and the box is fastened with grosgrain ribbon – again in Babar’s signature green.
The portfolio in which the limitation certificate, maquette and sketches are presented is also quarter-bound in cloth – red this time to match Babar’s famous car. The paper sides are printed with brush strokes from a piece of paper used by de Brunhoff when painting the sketches and with an image of Babar sitting on the title taken from page 41 of the facsimile. Inside, the portfolio is lined with Marcate Nettuno Grigio paper, FSC certified, uncoated and felt marked.. The limitation certificate, printed on green Marcate Nettuno, has been numbered by hand. The charming maquette is hand-sewn with bright red binding thread and the title page clearly shows that, originally, Cécile de Brunhoff was to be credited along with Jean. Apparently, she asked for her name to be removed as she felt so little of Babar’s creation was down to her inspired storytelling. It is absolutely fascinating to see which ideas continued from sketch to maquette to final publication and which were abandoned as the story developed. The back of the maquette is illustrated, by de Brunhoff, with Babar seen from the back. On his bottom ‘25 x 32’ has been scribbled – thought to be the intended paper size for the finished book. The 61 sketches, some with colour, most in pencil alone, are numbered on the reverse so that the annotations in the commentary are easy to follow and all are held together neatly with a red paper band. The facsimile is an exact copy of the 1931 original, with the colours just as they would have been when the book was first published.
Finally, to the commentary which is as fascinating as it is beautiful. The headings and captions have been printed in orange and blue to match the binding of the facsimile. There are drop capitals, again in orange, and delightful decorations of the tiny birds and butterflies, aeroplanes and elephants from the original illustrations. Folio art director, Raquel Leis Allion clearly had a great deal of fun designing this beautiful collection, the details are exquisite and absolutely everything has been considered to create a truly exceptional limited edition.
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