Rare Books Blog

October 22, 2009

Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law
An exhibit marking the 400th anniversary of Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum
Part 1

Grotius, Hugo (1583-1645). Mare liberum (Leiden, 1609).
Grotius launched his illustrious career in international law with this little book that initially did not bear his name.
Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

This exhibit marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Hugo Grotius’s Mare liberum, a short work, originally published as a pamphlet, which produced the first effective argument for the freedom of the seas and, with Grotius’s more mature work, De jure belli ac pacis (1625), lent substance and prestige to the idea of an international law in the service of the common good.

In principle, the Roman Civil Law had already established that navigation on the high seas was open to all. But in practice the principle was frequently disregarded  – even by Rome itself, when its naval power was at its height, and by others after its decline. With the growth of maritime commerce, especially in the later Middle Ages, maritime powers asserted dominion over wide areas of ocean space: Venice to dominion over the Adriatic Sea (Guido Pace, De dominio maris Adriatico, 1619); Genoa the Ligurian (Pietro Battista Borgo, De dominio serenessimae Genuinsis Reipublica in mari Liguria, 1641); Sweden, Denmark and Poland to all or parts of the Baltic.

Early efforts to codify maritime law, such as the 12th century Laws of Oleron and the Consolat de Mar (ca. 1484) had codified admiralty law on a range of subjects, including, for example, ship ownership, discipline and punishment of crews, and salvage.

– Notes by Edward Gordon

Pace, Giulio (1550-1635). De dominio maris Hadriatici desceptatio (Lyons, 1619).
Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Libro llamado Consulado de mar (Valencia, 1539).
A translation from the original Catalan into Spanish of “The Book of the Consulate of the Sea,” the basis for much of Europe’s maritime law.
Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law,” curated by Edward Gordon and Michael Widener, is on display October 2009 through January 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

October 22, 2009

Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law
An exhibit marking the 400th anniversary of Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum
Part 2

Early efforts to codify maritime law did little to resolve claims growing out of acrimonious political disputes over rights to trade with the Americas and the East Indies. The most extensive of these claims were ones made beginning in the mid 15th century by Spain and Portugal, respectively, following the discoveries of the New World and maritime trade routes to Asia. Initially based upon papal grants, the claims were said to have been established by an award made by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, perfected the following year in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Together they purported to justify the exclusion of other states not only from sharing in dominion over the newly discovered lands, but from navigating the trade routes and carrying on profitable trade with their inhabitants, as well. The two countries’ rival claims were resolved by fixing a line drawn 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, with Spain receiving all the lands west of the line, Portugal those to the east. Portugal then claimed sovereignty over the Indian Ocean and the south Atlantic, Spain over the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

The pope’s authority to grant these rights did not go uncontested, even within Catholic Spain itself. As early as 1564, in Illustrium controversiarum, a prominent Spanish jurist named Fernando Vázquez Menchaca (1512-1569) attacked Venice and Genoa’s claims to dominion over parts of the Mediterranean, defending freedom of the seas itself. Other European states rejected Spain and Portugal’s claims even more energetically, not only because, as had quickly become apparent, the logic underlying the line purportedly dividing their dominions had been undercut by the realization that it could be approached both from the east and the west, but for the practical reason that the two countries were manifestly unable to enforce them.

Even Queen Elizabeth of England, while herself demanding that foreign vessels entering waters claimed by England strike their topsails and take in their flags in recognition of Britain’s sovereign jurisdiction, declared that the exclusion of foreign merchants from Indian commerce was contrary to the law of nations. “The use of the sea and the air is common to all,” she told the Spanish ambassador, “neither can any title to the Ocean belong to any people or private man, forasmuch as neither Nature, nor regard of the public use and custom permitteth any possession thereof.”

– Notes by Edward Gordon

Vázquez Menchaca, Fernando (1512-1569). Controversiarum usu frequentium libri tres (Barcelona, 1563).
Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

“Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law,” curated by Edward Gordon and Michael Widener, is on display October 2009 through January 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

October 20, 2009

I was sorry to learn that Charles J. Tanenbaum, Yale Law School Class of 1937, passed away on Oct. 17, 2009, at age 94. Mr. Tanenbaum was a noted book collector and philanthropist. The Lillian Goldman Law Library was one among a great many institutions that benefited from his generosity.

Like many other great book & manuscript collectors, Charles Tanenbaum’s motive for collecting was not to acquire and hoard, but to discover and share. He curated over thirty exhibitions at major U.S. libraries, including Harvard, Penn, Stanford, and the Grolier Club, where he was a member for over 40 years.

Here at Yale, Mr. Tanenbaum endowed the Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund, which supports rare book acquisitions relating to the history of the legal profession. From his personal collection, he donated an important letter from Chief Justice John Marshall (described here) and Yale-College Subject to the General Assembly (New-Haven: Printed by Thomas and Samuel Green, 1784), a brief arguing for the Connecticut General Assembly’s right to regulate Yale College, by the prominent lawyer Samuel Whittelsey Dana.

The last gift we received from Mr. Tanenbaum was not from early American history, but from Mr. Tanenbaum’s personal history. It is a letter of recommendation from Yale law professor Underhill Moore, a letter that documents not only the anti-Semitism prevalent in the 1930s but also the person that Professor Moore described as “an unusually valuable man.” The letter appears below. I extend my deepest condolences to his widow, Mrs. Szilvia Szmuk-Tanenbaum, and his daughter Ann, for their loss.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

 

October 15, 2009

New exhibit…

Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law

October 2009 - January 2010
Rare Book Exhibition Gallery
Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library
Yale Law School

In 1609, a little pamphlet touched off a big debate that shaped modern international law. The Lillian Goldman Law Library marks the 400th anniversary of this event with its exhibition, “Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law.” It will be on display through January 2010 in the Yale Law School.

At the dawn of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company commissioned a young prodigy named Hugo Grotius to prepare a legal argument rejecting Spanish and Portuguese claims of dominion over the oceans around their overseas empires. His essay, Mare Liberum (“On the Freedom of the Seas”) touched off a “Battle of the Books.” What eventually emerged was a regime of international law to govern humanity’s common interest in shared resources.

At the center of this battle was Grotius and England’s leading legal scholar, John Selden. The exhibition documents their contributions and those from other European jurists, with books from the Rare Book Collection of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Harvard Law School Library, and the private collection of Edward Gordon.

The exhibition was curated by Edward Gordon, Yale Law School Class of 1963, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian. Gordon, past President of the American Branch of the International Law Association, was formerly professor of international law at Albany Law School, and has also taught at Rutgers, George Washington University, American University, Wellesley College, and the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The Rare Books Exhibition Gallery is located in the lower level of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Level L2), directly in front of the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room.

For those unable to visit the exhibit in person, it will appear in installments here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

For more information, phone Mike Widener at (203) 432-4494 or email him at .

The illustration:
Hugo Grotius Mari libero et P. Merula De maribus (Leiden, 1633). Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

September 4, 2009

My Flickr frenzy continues… Another new portrait gallery in the Rare Book Collection’s section of the Yale Law Library Flickr site comes from Lodovico Vedriani’s Dottori Modonesi di teologia, filosofia, legge canonica, e civile (Modena, 1665). The majority of the 36 portraits are of the leaders of Modena’s legal profession, along with churchmen, diplomats, politicians, and authors. One woman is included: Tarquinia Molza. Each portrait is accompanied by a lengthy panegyric highlighting the individual’s virtues and accomplishments.

The example below is of Aurelio Bellencini, “gran leggista,” one of four Bellencini family members pictured in the book.

Our copy of Dottori Modonesi is bound with Vedriani’s most well-known work, Raccolta de pittori, scultori et architetti modonesi (Modena, 1662), an important source for art historians. Our copy is also notable for having once formed part of the enormous private library of Richard Heber (1773-1833).

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

September 3, 2009

One of the first portrait albums ever published featured Italy’s outstanding jurists, Antoine Lafréry’s Illustrium iureconsultorum imagenes (Rome, 1566?). The book consists of 25 portraits, attributed to Niccolò Nelli, that reportedly were based on a set of portraits in the collection of Mantova Benavides, a jurist in Padua. The volume is one of the treasures of the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

Scanned images of all the portraits are now up in the Law Library’s Flickr site. The portraits are of leading jurists from the 13th to 16th centuries, and include such famous names as Accursius (ca. 1182-1260), the compiler of the standard gloss to the Corpus Juris Civilis, Bartolus of Sassoferrato (1313-1357), and the Renaissance humanist Andrea Alciati (1492-1550). In the midst of the 24 jurists’ portraits is, inexplicably, the image of Dante Alighieri. Below is the portrait of Gerolamo Cagnolo (1491-1551), author of commentaries on the Digest and Code of Justinian.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

August 5, 2009

The Rare Book Collection’s image galleries on Flickr are now part of the Yale Law Library’s Flickr site. All the previous content is still there – Legal Trees, Dutch Court Scenes, and Provenance Markings – and I continue to add images to these sets. New sets include:

  • 21 images from Francesco Maria Pecchio’s profusely illustrated Tractatus de aquaeductu (1713), a 4-volume treatise on the Roman law of aquaducts and riparian rights (see an example at right).
  • Images of Justitia (or Themis), or “blind-folded Justice with her scales.”
  • Title pages from a half-dozen 18th-century German legal dissertations. Our rare book cataloger, Susan Karpuk, spoke at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries on how to decipher their long-winded and complicated titles.
  • Two pamphlets relating to the prosecution of William Lanson, a leader of New Haven’s African-American community in the early 19th century. Lanson built the original Long Wharf and several other developments. In 1845 Lanson was accused of operating a house of ill repute. Isaiah Lanson’s Statement and Inquiry, Concerning the Trial of William Lanson (1845) is a defense of Lanson by his son Isaiah, and William Lanson’s Book of Satisfaction (1848) is William Lanson’s own defence, including a poem describing the events.

More to come…

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

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