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de Grummond
Children's Literature Collection
 
 

THE H.A. AND MARGRET REY LEGACY

 

On March 30, 1966, Dr. Lena de Grummond sent a letter to H.A. and Margret Rey, creators of the famous Curious George series, inviting them to become contributors to her newly founded children's literature collection. Little did she know, her initial inquiry would lead to numerous contacts with the creative couple over the next 32 years.

H.A. Rey responded to Dr. de Grummond's letter, saying that he would send an autographed proof sheet, a star chart, autobiographical materials, a set of miniature book jackets, a photograph of himself with a monkey, and a rough sketch of George about to swallow a piece of jigsaw puzzle. This gracious letter was made all the more valuable by an original drawing in the bottom corner showing George with a mailing tube under his arm next to a signpost for Hattiesburg.

This first donation was followed by several letters and then a second contribution in 1972 of two original illustrations for Curious George. Although the Reys and Dr. de Grummond continued to correspond, there was not another contribution until 1990. H.A. Rey had passed away in 1977, and in 1989, contact was made with Margret Rey regarding an additional contribution. In 1990, the Collection received an outstanding group of materials. Included were color separations for Curious George, Curious George Takes a Job, Zozo Gets a Medal, Curious George Learns the Alphabet, Curious George Rides a Bike, and Curious George Flies a Kite. In addition, full-color illustrations for Zebrology, Katy No-Pocket, Billy's Picture, and We Three Kings were also contributed. A very interesting group of materials are full-color dummies for unpublished works including "Nonsense ABC," "Whiteblack the Penguin Sees the World," "The Water Cure," and "The Street."

Once again, we kept in contact with Margret Rey over the next seven years. She generously allowed us to use the image showing George with the mailing tube on his way to Hattiesburg as part of our web page logo [http://www.lib.usm.edu/legacy/degrum/public_html].

In 1996, Margret Rey celebrated her 90th birthday at a festive party hosted by Houghton Mifflin, publishers of the Curious George books. A short time later, on December 21, 1996, Margret Rey succumbed to her fight with heart disease and cancer. Early in 1998, The University of Southern Mississippi was notified that Mrs. Rey had stipulated in her will that the remaining original materials and books were to be placed in the de Grummond Collection along with their other materials.

We visited the Rey home in February 1998 and met with the coexecutor of the estate, Lay Lee Ong. Ms. Ong was a very close friend of Mrs. Rey and has remained at their home in Cambridge along with Mrs. Rey's cocker spaniel, Jeannie. The home was alive with Curious George memorabilia and original artwork. Hundreds of stuffed Curious George dolls in all sizes adorned the window seat and stairway landings.

With the assistance of Ms. Ong, we chose materials that would be appropriate for inclusion in the de Grummond Collection. We returned to Hattiesburg laden with preliminary sketches, notebooks of ideas, full-color dummies, original illustrations, photographs, press sheets, reviews, and fan mail. Much of the early work created by the Reys is included. Of particular interest are original illustrations and dummy pages for Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys, the book in which Curious George first appeared, as one of the nine monkeys. We also have the original title page with the caption "Fifi: The Adventures of a Monkey," for the book that became Curious George. There are extensive preliminary materials for Curious George Goes to the Hospital and Curious George Learns the Alphabet that reveal the tedious creative process.

H.A. Rey had an intense interest in astronomy and produced two books on the subject. The Stars: A New Way to See Them (1952) was written for an adult audience and provided a new method of star recognition. Still in print after 46 years, The Stars is considered by many to be the best reference work in the field. The large amount of preparatory materials that exist for this title reflect Rey's dedication to this book. There are original manuscripts, star charts and calendar charts hand-lettered in painstaking detail, original art for the dust jacket and for charts of the seasonal skies. A unique item is a large black circle with hand-drawn stars that is mounted on a wooden post in such a way that the circle can be moved to an appropriate position for each page of the book.

Find the Constellations is directed at children and uses a simplified version of the star recognition method developed by Rey. This title is represented with typescripts, numerous preliminary illustrations, color separations, a dummy, fan mail, and reviews.

Rare items include children's pages from Good Housekeeping magazine, with short stories created by the Reys featuring characters such as Pretzel, Zozo, the Frivolous Firefly, and Sammy the Spider. A number of outstanding full-color dummies for unpublished books include "Indian Tortoise Stories", "My Circus", "Where's Mommy?", and "The Cigar Tree." H.A. Rey was also quite interested in history and evolution and had prepared a number of full-color charts depicting historical events and life through the ages.

Materials in the collection also document the very early professional work of both Margret and H.A. Rey. Margret trained as a photographer, and we have 29 examples of her black-and-white photographs. As is true of many children's book illustrators, H.A. Rey first earned a living through commercial art. We have many examples of the advertising campaigns that he created for pharmaceutical companies Hoffmann- LaRoche in Basel and Roche in Brazil. Other examples of commercial art include elaborate and decorative maps of Africa, Brazil, S o Paulo, and the Leopoldina Railway line.

Still to come are most of the original illustrations for Curious George, first published in 1941. Editors at Houghton Mifflin assembled the original full-color illustrations and will use them to print a new deluxe edition to be published in late 1998.

The de Grummond Collection is very excited to have these additional materials from the Rey Estate and want to share them with interested students, teachers, librarians, and scholars everywhere. We are planning a major exhibition of Rey materials at the de Grummond Collection within the next year. We will be involving area schools and public libraries, as well as bookstores and others interested in children's literature.

We also have cataloged all of the published books created by H.A. and Margret Rey that are held in our Collection and will soon be adding the newest version of the detailed listing of original materials to the de Grummond Collection web page. There is a version of the listing currently available via the Internet, but it does not include these latest additions.

The staff of the de Grummond Collection is indebted to the executors of the Rey estate for all of their assistance in arranging for the transfer of materials. We know that these creative efforts of Margret and H.A. Rey will live on to inform and delight new generations of scholars and readers.

 

 

Contact:
The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
Box 5148
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
(601) 266-4349
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