The Peace Palace Library

The names of the librarians in this chapter are linked to brief biographical entries, which include aspects of their careers that are not highlighted in here.

The rear of the Peace Palace, the original entry to the library
The rear of the Peace Palace, the original entry to the Library
The idea to set up a library on behalf of the Permanent Court of Abitration (PCA) had led Carnegie to become involved in the project. He wished to provide the Court with a "Standard Library of International Law" and at the opening of the Palace in August 1913 this was exactly what was offered. However, within ten years the Permanent Court of International Justice (succeeded, in 1946, by the International Court of Justice) was given a seat in the Palace, followed in 1923 by the Hague Academy of International Law. Neither the architects nor the Board had anticipated such a rapid extension of the functions of the Palace, which produced some acute problems of space. Thus, ironically, the Palace, which in 1913 had been criticized by many as preposterously large, actually proved to be too small within a decade.

The Library's province The primary aim of the Library was, in 1913 and still is today, to supply a service to the institutions which reside in the Palace. Initially meant for the Permanent Court of Abitration only, within ten years these services encompassed the now obsolete Court of the League of Nations and the Hague Academy of International Law. Since these institutions all operate in the same fields, the extensions did not really affect the Library's province proper, which was and is mainly international law, both in the public and private domains. In later years, due to the additional fields covered by the International Court of Justice, this institution was provided with a library of its own.

The first librarians On 15 August 1913, a fortnight before the opening of the Palace, the Belgian Professor Alberic Baron Rolin was appointed Director-General.

From left to right: Rolin, Molhuysen, and Van Hamel.

Rolin was secretary to the Institute of International Law and in this capacity was involved in the preparations of the Hague Academy of International Law, the opening of which, foreseen in 1915, was postponed due to the outbreak of the First World War. Even before Rolin was appointed, on 1 July 1913, the Board had appointed a Deputy-Director in the person of P.C. Molhuysen, then curator at Leiden University Library.

Whereas Rolin busied himself with the management proper, Molhuysen, assisted by his curator Elsa Oppenheim, directed his attention to the cataloguing. Their major feats were the famous Catalogue de la bibliothèque du Palais de la paix, the first bulky volume of which appeared as early as 1916, and the systematic catalogue put on index-cards.

On 30 April 1920 Rolin departed without being replaced, which left Molhuysen as managing director. On 1 September 1920 Elsa Oppenheim resigned from her position, to marry Molhuysen. A year later, on 1 October 1921, Molhuysen himself took his leave, to become Director of the Royal Library. As new director-librarian A. G. van Hamel was appointed, former librarian of the Rotterdam Economic (now Erasmus) University. He was to be assisted by A. Lysen.

A. Lysen
A. Lysen
A. Lysen, taken by surprise?

Within two years van Hamel in his turn left to become a professor at Utrecht University. It was at this point, on 1 January 1924, that Jacob ter Meulen entered the Palace. Ter Meulen and A. Lysen initiated the flowering days of the institution.

1924-1952 Lysen was the author of an authoritative study, the History of the Carnegie Foundation and of the Peace Palace at The Hague (1934). Furthermore, he broke fresh ground for the Library in many fields. Thus, in collaboration with staff member P.J.J. Diermanse he started a portrait catalogue, a register of the alphabetically arranged names of men and women whose portraits are printed in the books collected in the Library.

Diermanse platencatalogus
In 1942 P.J.J. Diermanse published his article 'De platencatalogus der bibliotheek van het Vredespaleis' ('The Peace Palace Portrait Catalogue') in the Dutch library journal Bibliotheekleven. An offprint annotated by Diermanse is preserved in the Library. To the right of Diermanse himself are displayed page seven alongside a complete additional note that he wished to insert in a future publication.

Diermanse boekje
Diermanse kept minute records of his work in the Library. A Notebook is preserved in which we can read of his work for the portrait catalogue; in translation the entry reads: "Furthermore Diermanse has started to insert in his catalogue the portrait catalogue, previously started by ladies before the former's arrival at the Peace Palace. The past 3 months he has processed some 2.700 index cards of this old catalogue, that is to say, he has arranged them with his own system (and sometimes replaced them) and subsequently inserted them."

Ter Meulen's librarianship covers nearly three decades. His lasting repute in the library world rests on two projects in the scholarly domain, regarding the Peace Movement and Grotian studies. He also took the expansion of the Peace collection into the sphere of pacifism. Large collections were purchased, others were offered, such as parts of Alfred Fried's private collection in 1931 and in 1951 the collection of the former Vredeshuis. Ter Meulen's personal interest in the peace movement is also shown in his Bibliography of the Peace Movement before 1899. These concerned two lists of peace publications: the first one published in 1934 and recording the period 1776-1899 in some 3,500 items, the second published in 1936, covering the period 1490-1776 in some 500 items.

Ter Meulen
From left to right: Ter Meulen; a fragment of page one of the 1776-1898 bibliography of the peace movement; and a copy with corrections and annotations of the 1480-1776 bibliography, preserved in the library.

In 1993 the third volume in the series, so to speak, appeared: Jacques Haasbeek's Vredescollectie, an inventory of the material collected by Ter Meulen himself, covering the years 1899-1940.

Ter Meulen studied in Switzerland under guidance of Professor Max Huber and the study he completed there became his best-known study on the peace movement, the three-volume Der Gedanke der Internationalen Organisation in seiner Entwicklung (The Development of the Idea of International Organization) published between 1917 and 1940. The second half of his term was increasingly devoted to the life and works of Hugo Grotius. Ter Meulen and Diermanse's Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius was published in 1950. When Ter Meulen died in 1962 his former colleague Diermanse and his successor Landheer published an obituary in The American Journal of International Law entitled 'In memory of Dr. Jacob ter Meulen'.

The next generation When Ter Meulen retired in 1952 he was replaced by Bart Landheer, who was responsible for the growing reputation of the Library as the most important documentation centre in the field of international law.

David Windvaantje
Maarten Biesheuvel, alias David Windvaantje.

Drs. J.B. van Hall, who served as Director from 1969 to 1980, was a librarian in the strictest sense. With him all activities and most of the contacts of the Library staff in the scholarly world of international law, sociology and polemology were discontinued. They were replaced by the renewed attention to inner structures, the serviceapparatus, managing efficiency and accessibility of the collection.

David WindvaantjeA famous staff member under Van Hall was the Dutch author Maarten Biesheuvel, whose short story 'A Day in the Life of David Windvaantje' is partly set in the Peace Palace Library.

Drs. J. Schalekamp, serving as Director from 1980 to 2001, had a business and management background and set himself the task of reorganizing the financial and management structures of the organization. Schalekamp was succeeded by Jeroen Vervliet, a historian and former head of the library of the Department of Law at Leiden University Library. Vervliet's main current responsibility is to manage the realization of the new library building, to be opened in 2006.

Jeroen Vervliet, the present director librarian. Photograph: Onno Kosters.


The present-day situation Among the growing number of international organisations in The Hague, like the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the 1980s, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and recently the International Criminal Court, the Peace Palace Library fulfils a pivotal role. At the same time it still serves as the Library for the old customers, like the Permanent Court of Abitration (PCA), the International Court of Justice and the Hague Academy of International Law. The local and worldwide services of the Library are facilitated by the online catalogue, and particularly by the digital library, containing all kinds of full text and bibliographical resources. Paradoxically, the digital library seduces distant users to visit the Library in person so as to be able to benefit from the modern reading room facilities and to do research in older parts of the collection. The Peace Palace Library Support Foundation subsidizes new acquisitions within the fields of civic and commercial law of the Western Countries.



A handful of highlights

The Hague Academy The Peace Palace Library and the Hague Academy, sharing the same address, are strongly connected and the electronic facilities of the Library have only strengthened the symbiosis between the two institutions. For eighty years they have been joined in an effort to further the study of international law. Since 1923 the lectures of the Summer Courses, delivered at the Peace Palace by distinguished scholars in the field of public and private international law, are published in the Recueil des cours. Students from all over the world attend these courses and visit the Library. Eminent international lawyers taught at the Academy and their contributions have made the series into a unique collection of high standard texts. The impressive list of authors indicates the importance of the lectures, while the topics reflect the constant development of international law as well. From the first lecture by Serge A. Korff (1923) on the history of international law to a more recent like Symeon C. Symeonides's on the conflict of laws (2002), every lecture has been catalogued in the Peace Palace Library.
Since 2003 the Library has put the lists of recommended reading by the lecturers of the Summer Courses online, and a selection from journal articles and books written by the lecturers is available in the Library.

Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations In 1957 the Academy started the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations. The Centre is reserved for a special kind of public, to wit, young and highly qualified international lawyers, who will undertake original research work within the framework of a general theme determined each year by the Academy. Topics of the first year were two judgments of the ICJ: 'The Corfu Channel Case and the Nottebohm Case'; the 2002 Subject was Food Supply Security. Since 1985 The Peace Palace Library has compiled selective bibliographies on each annual topic. The participants of the Centre make extensive use of the Library collection and its facilities for their study. Since 1985 the papers are published in a special series, the Monographs of the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations, with the Peace Palace Library bibliography incorporated in each volume. The Library website offers a selection of these bibliographies.

The documentation The Peace Palace Library in The Hague is unique because of its documentation section. This part of the collection contains the titles of articles in periodicals and books (essays and book-chapters).
Since its first day the library has documented all relevant articles. Every new issue of a journal (the library has 2.000 current subscriptions) and every new book is scrutinized. This needs to be done by specialized people. At this moment 6 people are involved in the process of making the titles available in the catalogue. And it never stops.
This article-based part of the collection is perhaps more used and sought after than the book collection.The articles form an indispensable tool for research, because they reflect the latest, most recent thoughts and ideas in the legal community.
Every year about 10.000 articles are indexed in the database and, if possible, directly linked to a fulltext site in the catalogue or on the web. This way the digital library enables the client to e-mail, download or print the material.
The next step will be to catalogue the titles from e-journals. This will supplement and enrich the collection immensely.

The club 500 Systematic code 500 is the code for "biographies, memoirs and correspondence", encompassing biographies, autobiographies, obituaries, congratulations and eulogies from good, bad and ugly people, dead or alive.
In thousands of books and articles eminent jurists, prominent politicians and statesmen from the seventeenth century to the present are gathered here, with their names arranged in alphabetical order. Just by browsing through the titles, you travel in time along bloody wars, empires lost and won, kings and rebels, their victories and their downfall.Tributes from one jurist to another, on occasions of anniversary, retirement or death. In their memoirs those jurists unveil their motives and the development of their thoughts, reflected in the titles elsewhere in the catalogue.
Delicate details of peace negotiations told by ambassadors, unveilings of devious actions and even treason; dictators, generals, revolutionaries, war criminals and their opponents, victims or even prosecutors: all are united in this category, the code 500, which makes it a bizarre, and at the same time most interesting collection.


The South African Law Journal celebrates its 120th anniversary! It started in 1884 under the title Cape Law Journal, but since volume 18 it is known under its present name. The South African Law Journal is one of the world's oldest law journals published in English. A bit older than the Law Quarterly Review and the Harvard Law Review. Only the American Law Review (predecessor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review) started earlier, in 1852.
Many important articles on national as well as international subjects were published in the journal and found their way into the Peace Palace Library catalogue. Ranging from politically inspired South African constitutional issues, to elaborations on Roman-Dutch law, Hugo Grotius, costumary law and lest we forget, Walvis Bay, Namibia, and more recently on the International Criminal Court and the War in Iraq. There have always been strong links with the Dutch academic world. Some of the contributors were professors at Dutch universities. Melius De Villiers, for instance, was Professor of Zuid-Afrikaansche Recht at the University of Leiden from 1902 till 1909, H.D.J. Bodenstein was Professor of Roman-Dutch law at the University of Amsterdam from 1912 till 1919 and John Dugard is at this moment Professor of International Law at the University of Leiden.
For fifty years the journal flourished under the editorial guidance of Ellison Kahn, Professor Emeritus of Law in and Honorary Professorial Research Fellow of the University of the Witwatersrand. His unsurpassed gift to mix serious juridical essays with entertaining, humorous and highly informative contributions has always given the journal something special. His trimestrial potpourris and witty anecdotes and portraits from judges and lawyers contributed greatly to the success of the journal.
May this long legal life go on for many years to come!
See also Kahn, E., 'The Birth and Life of the South African Law Journal', in South African Law Journal, vol. 100 (1983), pp. 594-641, and 'The South African Law Journal: Marking the 120th Anniversary', in South African Law Journal, vol. 121 (2004), pp. 265-504.

biggest book
From left to right: the smallest and the biggest book in the collection of the Peace Palace Library, and the cover of the inventory of the tableaux of the Peace Palace. The smallest book is a miniature edition of the Mijn grondrechten, summarizing every EU citizen's civil rights; the biggest book contains a huge collection of clippings referring to the first national arbitration and peace congress of America held in New York City, 1907 (photograph: Onno Kosters; the pen on top is a standard size biro). The Inventory of the tableaux of the Peace Palace is a collection of roughly 150 vivid images of historical events, portraits, proclamations of war, conclusions of peace treaties and anti-war posters, ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.