Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered

October 16, 2020 through May 16, 2021

Young, handsome, and highborn, Claude III de Laubespine lived in luxury after marrying an heiress and obtaining the favor of King Charles IX. His brilliant career at court was cut short in 1570, when he died at the age of 25. He left behind a splendid library, which was dispersed, and only recently have his books been identified and properly appreciated for their superb quality and fine bindings. Laubespine now ranks among the great collectors of the French Renaissance.

For the first time in more than 400 years, this exhibition brings together some of the most spectacular bindings in that collection, exquisite examples of Renaissance ornamental design. They will be shown along with related artwork and literary memorials of Laubespine. He left his books to his sister, a patron of the poet Pierre de Ronsard, who praised her country estate, the library, and its perfumed bindings, which, he said, “smells as good as your orange trees.” This exhibition will evoke the sensual pleasure and literary connoisseurship implicit in a noble library of that era.

Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered is made possible by T. Kimball Brooker, with assistance from Roland and Mary Ann Folter; Jamie Kleinberg Kamph, Stonehouse Bindery; Jonathan and Megumi Hill; Martha J. Fleischman; and Professor and Mrs. Eugene S. Flamm.

Binding commissioned by Claude de Laubespine for Vignola, Regola delli cinque ordini d'architettura (Rome, ca. 1564). Morgan Library & Museum; Purchased as the gift of the Fellows, 1960.