Yesterday I had the extra-special treat of meeting up with fellow blogger, picture book writer, and Francophile, Laura Sassi, at The Morgan Library & Museum to view their exhibit of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original manuscript and watercolor drawings of The Little Prince.
The exhibit focuses on the two-year period from 1941-1943 when Saint-Exupéry was living in Manhattan and Long Island, having been exiled from France during World War II.
Before leaving New York to re-enter the war effort as a reconnaissance pilot, he gave his friend Sylvia Hamilton a rumpled paper bag containing the manuscript and illustrations for The Little Prince. He told her, “I’d like to give you something splendid, . . . but this is all I have.” (Source: http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=90)
The exhibit features 25 of the manuscript pages and all 43 of the book’s earliest versions of the illustrations. The manuscript pages are handwritten rough drafts, replete with cross-outs, rips, stains and cigarette burns. You really get a sense of Saint-Exupéry’s meticulousness and attention to detail—not to mention his pure genius—when you read through his notes, and see his first sketches.
One item that caught my eye was his preliminary publishing contract, dated November 12, 1942, with Reynal & Hitchcock for The Little Prince and another book, which he never completed. The contract provided for an advance of $3000.
The exhibit also had some interesting materials covering the marketing of the book. Seems that there were questions about whether the book should be marketed for children, adults, or both.
If you love The Little Prince, it is definitely worth a trip to The Morgan. The exhibit is running through April 27, 2014. They also have two lectures coming up about The Little Prince.
- Saint-Exupéry in New York, A Conversation with Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer (March 11, 6:30 p.m.)
- The Pilot and the Little Prince, A Conversation with Peter Sís (April 22, 6:30 p.m.)
And if you have time, lunch at their café was also an extra-special treat. In keeping with the theme of the exhibit, Laura’s grilled cheese sandwich came in the shape of a star and was served with the most adorable airplane cookies.