This is one of the earliest known examples of French poetry in a luxury armorial binding executed at the time of publication. Pierre de Brisay de Denonville (1523-ca. 1582), a connoisseur of poetry, recognized the importance of Ronsard's works as they were being issued and had them bound in a cover befitting the elevated status of Ronsard's poetry.
These three publications mark a turning point in Ronsard's literary career. The Bocage contains a royal privilege giving the poet exclusive rights to his work present and future, a document signed at Fontainebleau, 4 January 1553, here printed for the first time. It is remarkable in that it confers these rights on the author rather than a member of the trade. Ordinarily Catherine Lhéritier, the widow of publisher Maurice de La Porte, would have been named in the privilege, but she had to pay the poet for the manuscripts of the Bocage and the Quatre premiers livres des odes and could issue those works only for the term of six years. This privilege reverses the relationship between author and publisher for the express purpose of encouraging arts and letters in the kingdom and creating a model of French language, "hitherto lacking in refinement." In a legal sense, it makes literature part of the Renaissance cultural agenda, an instrument for the greater glory of king and country. Ronsard used this opportunity to issue his works in a uniform format, which is evident in these three publications. So, both in style and substance, the author is taking control of his work. In that spirit the Quatre premiers livres des odes has a woodcut portrait of the poet, age twenty-seven, wearing the laurel crown à l'antique.
Brisay de Denonville had the three works bound in brown morocco (goatskin leather) with his name tooled in gold and his armorial on the front cover framed with silver strapwork and arabesque onlays. This lavish cover was likely produced in the workshop of royal binder Gomar Estienne (d. 1555), active at the royal court at Fontainebleau 1547-1552. Previously, collectors adopted this binding style to consecrate classical texts and vernacular imprints of antiquarian interest, but now it exemplifies new developments in French Renaissance culture, the emergence of ambitious libraries as a kind of conspicuous consumption, formerly the exclusive province of royalty and the high nobility. Brisay de Denonville commissioned other luxury bindings, but this appears to be the only one in an American library.
"Achevé d'imprimer le vingtseptiéme iour de Nouembre, mil cinq cens cinquante quatre."
This copy ruled in red.