Landmark Books in All Fields
ItemID: #79277
Cost: $35,000.00

Eloise manuscript archive

Hilary Knight


THOMPSON, Kay. WELLS, Robert. Eloise manuscript archive. [New York: 1955-59]. Folio sheets. Housed in four custom chemise and all together in one clamshell box. $35,000.

Extraordinary archive collection of manuscripts and typescripts for Kay Thompson’s famous first Eloise book, with materials from the collection of Eloise songwriter Robert Wells. The extensive archive includes 26 pages in Thompson’s large distinctive hand and many other pages with her handwritten notes. The only known manuscript draft for Eloise, containing in Thompson’s hand the immortal lines, “I am Eloise. I am six.”

"While still on tour [as a singer] with the Williams Brothers sometime around 1950, Thompson had arrived late to a rehearsal one night and playfully apologized to the crew in a high little girl voice, identifying herself as a six-year-old named Eloise. The character became a recurring joke, and Thompson played the part of the mischievous child with her fellow performers at rehearsals and after work for the rest of the act's run. One night during her new act at the Plaza's Persian Room, a friend in the audience called for 'Eloise' to say something, and Thompson responded with a few minutes of the character, to everyone's great amusement. As the personality of the tyke emerged in Thompson's spontaneous riffs, Eloise became increasingly well defined, and a friend suggested that she become the subject of a book… Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups… tickled both children and adults and sold more than 150,000 hardbound copies within a year of its publication in 1955. The impish character inevitably generated a sequel, Eloise in Paris (1957), followed by Eloise at Christmastime (1958) and Eloise in Moscow (1959)" (ANB). This archive includes early drafts of the first Eloise book, drafts for a presentation Thompson gave introducing Eloise, drafts for a 1956 dramatization of Eloise (which departed wildly from the book) and drafts for the 1956 song "Eloise" with music by Emmy-winning composer Robert Wells (best known for co-writing "The Christmas Song" with Mel Tormé). Included are four pages of manuscript sheet music in Wells' hand, a 45-rpm record of the finished song with Wells' signature on the sleeve and a copy of the songwriter's renewal contract; a brief draft for an unrelated character; a publicity flyer for the book; and an envelope from illustrator Hilary Knight addressed to Thompson and postmarked in the year of the book's publication. In all, there are 26 pages in Thompson's large, distinctive hand; 26 typewritten pages, many with her handwritten notes; and 18 pages in a secretarial hand. Many of the draft pages include characters and incidents not present in the book's final form; the archive includes a draft page in Thompson's hand with the immortal lines, "I am Eloise. I am six." This archive is the only known manuscript version of Eloise—no other drafts are known to be extant—and as such represents a great rarity in children's classics.

Manuscript leaves fine, writing large and bold. A unique and unmatchable collection chronicling the creation of a children's classic.

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