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A Note on the Original Text of "Beauty and the Beast" Author(s): Jaques Barchilon Source: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 56, No. 1, (Jan., 1961), pp. 81-82 Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association Stable URL: Accessed: 12/05/2008 09:59
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Miscellaneous Notes


In January 1957 the Houghton Library at Harvard added to itsshelves a seemingly obscure, well-bound work in two volumes entitled Le Magasin des enfans, by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont. In its day the Magasin was popular throughout Europe.1 This edition, hitherto unknown, of the Magasin, contains one of the most famous of all fairy tales, 'La Belle et la Bete' ('Beauty and the Beast'). The Houghton Library copy is dated 1756, one year earlier than any otherrecorded copy. So far as I could ascertain there has been no other first edition known with the exception of the later one of 1757. This edition is mentioned in catalogues, but it is not readily available. Neither the British Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Library of Congress at Washington, nor the Harvard College Library is in possession of a 1757 copy. Lanson's Bibliographie de lalitterature fran9aise and the authoritative Gumuchiun bibliography of children's books, while not indicating any location, do mention the existence of a first (1757) edition. In view of the unavailability of early copies, it is all the more fortunate that the Houghton Library could secure this probably unique (1756) copy.2 The Houghton Library copy was purchased in Paris and brought to Harvard as a gift ofGeorges L. Lincoln, Class of 1895. The two volumes are leather-bound and measure 14 by 12 cm. with an ex-libris: 'From the Library of Lady Robert Manners.' The title-page of the Magasin reads as follows: Magasin | des | enfans, I ou I dialogues [ entre une sage gouvernante | et I plusiers de ses eleves de la premiere I distinction... I Par I Made Le Prince de Beaumont. I A Londres I se vend chezJ. Haberkorn, dans Gerard-Street, Soho, | & chez les libraires de cette ville. 1 1756. Dedicated to 'Paul Petrovitch, petit fils de Pierre Le Grand', the first volume begins with an 'Epitre' of ten unnumbered pages signed 'Madame Le Prince de Beaumont'. At that time, and for many years thereafter, she was living in London devoting herself to the education of young women. The Magasin itself fills adidactic function. Containing a collection of stories and moralizing dialogues between a group of English children and a governess, called Madame Bonne, who relates the conte of 'La Belle et la Bete', this volume apparently disappeared from the book market until its 'rediscovery'. There is little doubt that full credit is to be given to Madame Le Prince de Beaumont for having cast the story in...