Grotius collection

The Peace Palace Library in The Hague holds one of the greatest collections in the world of the works of Hugo Grotius [1583-1645], founder of a systematic modern doctrine of international law and universally called the “Father of International Law”.

The gift by Martinus Nijhoff in 1913 of 55 editions of Grotius’ masterpiece ‘De iure belli ac pacis” was the beginning of an ever expanding collection of Grotius’ works, with an emphasis on his juridical works.  Grotius research at the Peace Palace Library has resulted in the famous “Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (1950) by Ter Meulen-Diermanse, the Concise Catalogue of the Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace (1983) and the Bibliography in Grotiana, a  journal dedicated to Grotius. The library is active in acquiring material from and about Grotius, old and new, in any language, in any form. Books and articles are accessible through the catalogue.

See for instance:

 The Library, not far from the place where he was arrested in 1618 has become  the centre of Grotius- Research for scholars from all over the world.


Mare Liberum

Mare liberumMare Liberum sive De iure quod Batavis competit ad Indicana commercia dissertatio is a small pocket-sized booklet of 68 pages and was published in 1609 in Leiden by Elzevier. In thirteen chapters Grotius states his ideas of the principle of the ‘Free Sea’. The sea was to be considered international territory and all nations were free to use it for trade. In view of the Dutch competing with the Spanish, Portuguese and the English over navigating, trading and fishing issues, this was a controversial view.
The Peace Palace Library has an original copy of Mare Liberum (TMD 541, in the famous Ter Meulen/Diermanse Bibliographie de Grotius. The Library has an important collection of Mare Liberum-editions (TMD numbers 541-564), most of them originals.

Grotius’ fame echoes in the International Court of Justice in cases related to the law of the sea, referring to his "Mare liberum" (1609).

De iure belli ac pacis

De Iure Belli Ac Pacis - Hugo GrotiusThe Peace Palace Library has a unique first print of the first edition of “De iure belli ac pacis libri tres” by Hugo Grotius (TMD 565.1, i.e. the number in the TerMeulenDiermanse Grotius Bibliography). Grotius wrote this book in 1625 during his exile in Paris. In this work, based on natural law, he investigated and explained his theory of “just war” (when war is justified, what are the causes of war and what are the rules of war). It is widely regarded as the “Foundation of Modern International Law”. The book was finished in great haste to be in time for the Frankfurt Bookfair. As a result there had not been enough time to correct all pages and page numbering. This print also lacks indices and a table of content. For specialists it will be most interesting to compare this print with later corrected versions. The only other known copy of this print is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Research guide Grotius (Hugo) *1583-1645*

For research on the works of Hugo Grotius the Peace Palace Library offers you a research guide on Grotius. This research guide is intended as a starting point for research on the works of Hugo Grotius. Check our research guide on Grotius »

A concise catalogue

“The Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace Library: a concise catalogue” was published in 1983 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Grotius’ birth. It contains the printed works and manuscripts from Grotius in the Peace Palace Library. Grotius’ works  are presented according to the arrangement of titles in the “Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (1950) by Ter Meulen-Diermanse. It offers a quick and handy view into the Grotius collection of the Peace Palace Library

Follow this link to download The Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace: a concise catalogue. ed. by A.C. Eyffinger. Assen : Van Gorcum, 1983. ISBN 90-232-1983-X.

More useful links on Grotius

Other special collections of the Peace Palace Library