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NYC museum presents ‘The Little Prince’ exhibit

January 6, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — The original handwritten manuscript for the beloved children’s tale “The Little Prince” is the subject of a new exhibition at New York’s Morgan Library and Museum.

French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery crafted the book in New York City, and it was published there in 1943. Saint-Exupery spent two years in the city after France fell to Germany in 1940.

“The Little Prince: A New York Story” opens Jan. 24. It features 35 original watercolors and 25 pages from Saint-Exupery’s 140-page original text.

“The Little Prince” tells the adventures of a boy who hails from a tiny asteroid no larger than a house. On his way to Earth, he visits other planets and meets a king, a conceited man, a drunkard, a lamplighter and a geographer. On Earth, he encounters a fox who teaches him: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” The phrase is the book’s central theme and one Saint-Exupery revised 15 times, including the version “What matters cannot be seen.”

Saint-Exupery didn’t live to see his book published in France. He died while piloting a reconnaissance flight in 1944, weeks before the liberation of Paris.

The Morgan acquired his manuscript in 1968, the museum said. Saint-Exupery’s French publisher, Gallimard, has just published a facsimile of the working manuscript.

“This is very much a preliminary draft, a work in progress and yet to anyone who knows the book well it will be entirely recognizable,” said Christine Nelson, curator of literary and historical manuscripts at the Morgan.

Among the exhibition’s highlights is an unpublished drawing that Saint-Exupery had wadded up and tossed showing the prince wearing his signature yellow scarf floating over Earth.

There’s also a three-page draft of an alternate ending in which the narrator muses about what happened to the little prince after he left Earth.

“It’s much more agonized and melancholy and reads as a war-time text,” Nelson said. “The final version is more open-ended, more mysterious, leaving it up to the reader to conclude how to feel at the end of the prince’s journey.”

The exhibition runs through April 27.

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