Poetry & Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered

Young, handsome, and highborn, the French courtier Claude III de Laubespine (1545–1570) lived in luxury after marrying an heiress and obtaining the favor of King Charles IX. He became a secretary of state and rose high enough in the royal entourage to be entrusted with diplomatic missions abroad. The poets Pierre de Ronsard and Philippe Desportes, seeking patronage from Claude III’s family, composed elegant tributes in verse praising him; his father, Claude II; his sister, Madeleine; and her husband, Nicolas de Villeroy, who was also a secretary of state. Claude III’s brilliant career at court was cut short when he died at the age of twenty-five. He left a splendid library, which was dispersed after passing through the hands of his sister and brother-in-law; 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 since his death 450 years ago, this exhibition brings together some of the most spectacular bindings in his collection, exquisite examples of Renaissance ornamental design attesting to a noble statesman’s knowledge, wealth, and taste.

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.