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The Ronsard Polemic

Ronsard opposed the Protestant reformers on both theological and political grounds, and developed his arguments in a series of poetic discours that were published widely in pamphlet form, and often in pirated as well as authorized editions. The Gordon Collection includes nine of these "plaquettes," including very rare copies of several editions.

Click on the call numbers below to view the complete digital facsimile of each volume.



Gordon 1563 R656b. Pierre de Ronsard, Elegie […] sur les troubles d’Amboise, 1560, Paris, G. Buon, 1563.

This poem is the first of the polemical and religious poems known as the Discours. It was first published in volume III (Cinquieme livre des Poemes) of the collected works, in 1560, and printed separately in 1562. Ronsard relates and condemns the attack of the castle of Amboise in March 1560 by La Renaudie and his Protestant friends who wanted to eliminate the influence of the Guises. The coup failed and the military repression by the king was merciless. In his poem, Ronsard lends his support to the Guises and to the young king François II, and congratulates his friend, the poet Guillaume Des Autels, who had earlier published his Harengue au peuple françois contre la rebellion. In the 1563 separate edition of his Elegie, Ronsard defends a stronger condemnation of the rebellion and further supports the use of military violence. The sentence “Il fault en disputant par livres le confondre/Par livres l’assaillir, par livres luy respondre” (1560) becomes in 1562-1563 : “Par armes l’assaillir, par armes luy respondre”.

The 1563 copy of the Elegie in the Gordon Collection is one of the four different editions or states published that year (see Jean-Paul Barbier, Bibliographie des Discours de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, n°7, p.21-22). It is elegantly bound by Riviere & Son and bears the bookplate of Douglas Gordon.



Gordon 1563 R656 : Pierre de Ronsard, Elegie […] sur les troubles d’Amboise, mil cinq cens soixante, Lyon, [s.n.], 1563.

The Elegie, published in a separate edition by Gabriel Buon in Paris as early as 1562, was so popular that it was pirated by printers in Toulouse (Colomies, 1562) and in Lyon (s. n., 1563). The 1563 Elegie edition belongs to the family of other Discours printed in Lyon, probably by a publisher close to religious Reformers.

This very rare book (the only other copy known is held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France) is bound with the Buon edition, published the same year.



Gordon 1563 R65: Pierre de Ronsard, Discours des Miseres de ce temps, Paris, G. Buon, 1563.

Written by Ronsard in June 1562, the Discours des Miseres de ce temps is the first of the polemical and religious poems known as the Discours. The official court poet cannot keep silent when Condé, leader of the protestant army, refuses to obey to the Queen Regent, Catherine de Medici. Hoping that the two sides, catholic and protestant, will sign a peace agreement, Ronsard writes a beautiful discourse to expel civil disorder (“Opinion”) and entreats God to restore peace and unity in France.

The 1563 copy of the Discours des Miseres in the Gordon Collection belongs to the second “family” of the edition published in 1563 (see J.-P. Barbier, Bibliographie des Discours politiques de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, p.67-74). However, the Gordon copy differs slightly from Barbier's copy (n° 32, p.73-74) in that the printer's mark is placed more on the left.

Ronsard was so successful with this small book, or “plaquette”, that the Discours des Miseres was printed many times by Gabriel Buon, either in separate editions (from 1562 to 1572), or in the collected works (Œuvres) where it first appeared in 1567.

The Gordon copy of 1563 is elegantly bound by Riviere & Son and includes two portraits (1588) of Ronsard and Catherine de Medici.



Gordon 1563 R65b 1-2: Pierre de Ronsard, Discours des Miseres de ce temps, Lyon, s.n., 1563 ; with: Continuation du Discours des miseres de ce temps, s.l.s.n., 1563.

Ronsard's Discours were so popular that pirated editions appeared in various cities of France (Toulouse, Troyes and Lyon) and elsewhere in Europe (Anvers). The Discours des Miseres was published in Lyon, where protestants responded to Ronsard's polemical pamphlets. Even though this book is published by an anonymous printer, the view is commonly held that it was pirated by a publisher close to religious reformers.

This copy in the Gordon Collection is the fifth one which should be added to J.-P. Barbier's list (Bibliographie des Discours politiques de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, p.82).

Bound with the Discours, the Continuation du Discours des miseres de ce temps presents a longer and second address to the Reformers that Ronsard wrote in October of 1562. In this new poem, he blames the protestant “rebels” for their bloody actions and solemnly implores Théodore de Bèze, leader of the new religion, to act personally in order to quell the hostilities. Ronsard demonstrates magnificent eloquence in his condemnation of heresy.

This poem was a publishing success and appeared in Buon every year from 1562 to 1565. Until the present, only the 1564 pirated edition, probably printed in Lyon, like the Discours des Miseres, was known to bibliographers (J.-P. Barbier, op. cit., n° 50, p.111-112). The Gordon copy of 1563 is, therefore, a discovery. The completely different typographical composition shows that it is related to the pirated edition of 1564 and that the poem was well received in France as early as 1563.

This unique set of pamphlets was bound by Semet et Plumelle.



Gordon 1563 R67: Pierre de Ronsard, Remonstrance au peuple de France, s.l.s.n., 1563.

Following the Discours des Miseres and the Continuation du Discours des miseres, the Remonstrance au peuple de France was written by Ronsard at the end of 1562. Ronsard composes 844 lines to denounce the violence perpetrated by the ennemies of the kingdom, Huguenots and also catholic aristocrats opposed to the political power of Catherine de Medici. In spite of negotiations between the parties, no agreement was reached and civil war continued. The army of Condé besieged Paris in early December, 1562 but was forced to retreat. Ronsard chooses that very moment to write his long diatribe against all opponents of the catholic church and all sinners of the catholic faith. Sparing no one, he ends his poem by imploring God to punish the rebels.

Published by Ronsard's accredited publisher, Gabriel Buon, the Remonstrance was printed several times between 1563 and 1572. Until now, bibliographers knew of only one pirated edition from Lyon (1572 ; see Bibliographie des Discours politiques de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, n°62). But, in fact, like the first two “discours” of 1562, the Remonstrance had been published as early as 1563 by the same publisher in Lyon. The typographical characters and ornaments (the headband and the dropped initial, f° A1 v°) used here prove that the three pamphlets were published by the same printer.

This very rare book (the only other copy is held at the Pierpont Morgan Library) has a binding made by Riviere & Son.



Gordon 1563 R67b : [Pierre de Ronsard], Remonstrance au peuple de France, Paris, G. Buon, 1563.

Written at the end of 1562, the Remonstrance is the fifth of the polemical and religious Discours to be published early in 1563. Ever prudent, Ronsard probably chose to let his publisher, Gabriel Buon, omit his name on the title page. But new editions of this text, published later in the same year, reveal the name of Ronsard. In fact, five editions of the Remonstrance were produced in 1563 by Buon and there were two more pirated editions in Toulouse and Troyes. This indicates the extent of the success of this poem.

The copy of the 1563 Buon edition in the Gordon Collection corresponds to the n°53 listed by J.-P. Barbier (Bibliographie des Discours de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, p.122-125).



Gordon 1563 R66 : Pierre de Ronsard, Institution pour l’adolescence du Roy Treschrestien Charles Neufviesme de ce nom, Lyon, [s. n.], 1563.

Charles IX is only eleven and has been king for a year when Ronsard writes his Institution in the second half of 1561. Like the medieval institutio or a manual for the education of the prince, Ronsard’s poem provides in 186 lines political advice and moral recommendations to Charles IX. He also asks him to distrust the Reformers’ ideas and to regenerate the Catholic Church.

Published by Gabriel Buon in Paris as early as 1562, the Institution was well received and printed four times that very year by Ronsard’s accredited publisher. But this poem was also cherished by other publishers who printed it once in 1562 (Colomies, Toulouse) and again the next year (Lyon, 1563). Although he did it anonymously, the Lyon publisher seems to be the same one who printed the other Discours in 1563 (see J.-P. Barbier, Bibliographie des Discours de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, n°22, p.49-50). The Gordon copy is bound by Riviere & Son.



Gordon 1564 R65 : Pierre de Ronsard, Institution pour l’adolescence du Roy Treschrestien Charles Neufviesme de ce nom, Paris, G. Buon, 1564.

First published in 1562, this “plaquette” containing 186 lines addressed to the young king Charles IX was printed several times between 1562 and 1566. It seems to have been printed only once in 1564 for which J.-P. Barbier lists four copies (Bibliographie des Discours de Ronsard, Genève, Droz, 2nd ed., 1996, n°19, p.44-45). The Gordon copy should, therefore, be counted as the fifth known copy of this important book, bound by Riviere & Son.



Gordon 1568 R65 : Pierre de Ronsard, Epitaphes […] sur le Tombeau de haut et puissant seigneur Anne Duc de Mommorancy, Lyon, François Didier, 1568.

When Anne de Montmorency died at the battle of Saint-Denis (November 1567), killed by the army of Condé, Ronsard and other admirers of the Connétable joined voices to produce a poetic commemoration. The original edition of the Epitaphes (1567) was published in Paris by Philippe de Roville and includes two poems by Ronsard and other Latin and French poems by the famous poets Philippe Desportes, Jean Dorat, etc. A second slightly different edition was published the following year by Roville, and also in Lyon by François Didier. Based on the two Parisian editions, the Didier edition shows the success of this book in France.

Copies of this late edition are scarce. The Gordon copy in red morocco is elegantly bound by Godillot.



Materials on this page were generously contributed by François Rouget, Queens University, Canada (2004).


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