Debussy: Les Papillons

First Edition and Facsimile of a newly discovered song by Claude Achille Debussy

Les Papillons
(The Butterflies)


“Les Papillons” for Voice and Piano. First Edition. Text by Théophile Gautier. A Performing Edition and
Facsimile of the Composer’s Autograph in the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. [JOB 96-17].

New York Public Library, 2004. 27 x 35 cm, 26 pp.
Designed by Marc Blaustein. Transcription engraved by George Boziwick.
Four-color facsimile of the autograph in the original format.
Portfolio, with insert for facsimile and performing edition.

Limited edition of 1,000 copies printed on Neenah Classic Laid.
ISBN 0-87104-456-6.  Introductory price: $65

When a new work surfaces from a composer of the stature of Claude Debussy, the musical community
collectively rejoices. The appearance of “Les Papillons,” composed most likely in 1881, represents one
such extraordinary event, for this setting of a poem by Théophile Gautier has been virtually unknown
since Debussy’s time. The song received its world premiere only in 1962, some eighty years after its
composition, at New York’s Town Hall; on that occasion, conductor Wilfrid Pelletier observed in a
program note that “to my knowledge, this song has never been mentioned by any biographer, nor sung
in public.” More recently, in February 2004, the work was performed by acclaimed soprano Renée
Fleming as part of the recital “The Art of French Song,” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Debussy’s autograph manuscript is now in the collection of the
Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Drawing upon this unique
resource, this beautifully designed publication includes the first edition of “Les Papillons,”
transcribed by Marie Rolf, and a facsimile of the manuscript. An essay by Rolf describes the
provenance of the manuscript, its date of composition, stylistic issues, comparative settings, and
editorial practices followed in the transcription, while Margaret G. Cobb in her preface offers
relevant background information on the life and work of Debussy and Gautier. In making “Les
Papillons” readily accessible to today’s performing artists, this special edition ensures and enhances
the reputation of this early song by a master composer.

distributed by:

OMI - Old Manuscripts & Incunabula
PO Box 6019 FDR Station, New York, NY 10150 •
tel/fax 212 758-1946