The Little Prince: A New York Story
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)
The Little Prince
New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York
Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2013
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, lived in New York and actually wrote and published the book we all know as a French piece here in the United States.
A new exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum focuses on the story’s beginning in NYC and exhibits 25 of the original manuscript pages. Some pages have burns, coffee stains, markings and best of all, drawings by the author. The exhibit also contains some personal items of the author, including letters, photos and a silver bracelet that was the last thing the much-loved author gave the world.
Interview with Christine Nelson, Drue Heinz Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York
Can you describe a couple of the artifacts from the author in the exhibit? The recent NPR story mentioned a silver bracelet. It sounds like that could be one of the most talked about pieces in the exhibit?
Indeed—the end of The Little Prince and the end of Saint-Exupéry’s life converged in a most heartbreaking way. Just as the little prince disappeared from earth, leaving the reader to contemplate his fate, Saint-Exupéry himself never returned from his final reconnaissance mission on 31 July 1944. Astonishingly, the silver identity bracelet he was wearing when his plane was shot down was recovered near Marseille in 1998 after it was snagged in a fisherman’s net. It is inscribed with Saint-Exupéry’s name and the address of the American publisher of The Little Prince (Reynal & Hitchcock). The last line reads N.Y.C., U.S.A.—an extraordinary reminder of the author’s close link with our city and our country. We’re honored to be able to present this moving artifact in the exhibition.
Tell our readers something about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry they may not know… is the story of the author’s life included in the exhibit?
Identity bracelet of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)
Worn during his last mission with the 2/33 French Reconnaissance Group under the command of the Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing, 31 July 1944 Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This exhibition is about the making of a story—it takes us back (as close as possible) to the moment of creation. It is not a biography but rather a window into a particular time in the author’s life. And so in addition to the manuscript and drawings, the exhibition includes letters, drawings, and books that make clear that even during wartime—even in his despair and isolation— Saint-Exupéry formed meaningful bonds with people and left a deep impression on Americans. For example, on view are drawings he gave to Elizabeth Reynal, a French-speaking friend (and wife of his publisher) who found him an apartment when he first arrived, and a diary entry by Anne Morrow
John Phillips (1914–1996)
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Alghero, Sardinia, May 1944
Silver gelatin print
Collection of Andrea Cairone, New York
© John and Annamaria Phillips Foundation
Lindbergh, fellow aviator and author, who read an advance copy of the The Little Prince and saw in it a cry of personal anguish. We even have an enthusiastic fan letter from an American schoolteacher from the Midwest who thanked him for giving us the right book at the right time: “I believe it will cause many people to think more deeply and it is a time when we need help in thinking more deeply.”
I saw you also recently had an Edgar Allan Poe exhibit. Do you often feature authors at The Morgan?Yes, the Morgan frequently presents exhibitions on literary themes, often drawn from our rich collection of authors’ manuscripts and letters—in recent years we’ve held exhibitions on Poe, Twain, Dickens, and Austen. And visitors can always see a selection of great letters, manuscripts, and rare printed books on view in our magnificent 1906 library, designed by Charles McKim for the American financier Pierpont Morgan.