Monday, December 14, 2009

Mare Liberum 1609-2009


A Great Grotian Gathering took place at the Peace Palace on December 12, 2009.
The International Conference on “The History and Influence of Mare Liberum” brought together Grotian specialists from all over the globe. It was the conclusion of a “Mare Liberum” festival in The Hague, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Grotius’ famous book “Mare Liberum”.
The program offered a wide variety of distinguished speakers on various perceptions of Grotius’ work, ranging from the colonial view to the private and international law view in the morning session, to modern international law of the sea and piracy in the afternoon parallel sessions.
Highlight of the conference was the presentation of the first copy of a new English translation of Mare Liberum to the President of the International Court of Justice Judge Owada :
Hugo Grotius Mare liberum 1609-2009. Original Latin and English Translation”. Edited and annotated by Robert Feenstra, General Introduction by Jeroen Vervliet. Leiden : Brill 2009. ISBN 9789004177017.

It is a beautifully edited book with well chosen illustrations (178 pages), two introductions, a facsimile edition of the Latin text (Leiden, 1609), the new revised English translation and precious indexes. In his general introduction Jeroen Vervliet explains why Grotius wrote Mare Liberum in one of the most turbulent episodes of Dutch history, how he conceived and formulated his ideas, and how his opponents like William Welwood , John Selden and Seraphim de Freitas reacted.
Robert Feenstra, professor emeritus of legal history at Leiden, in his introduction, explains his almost lifelong occupation with Grotius. He describes the process of the meticulous verification of references, corrections, sources, annotations and different translations, comparing various editions. The result is a fascinating story of scientific research that yielded this critical edition.

This new book fits perfectly in the Grotian research tradition at the Peace Palace Library, started by Jacob Ter Meulen (librarian from 1924 till 1952) and now continued by Jeroen Vervliet, the present librarian, and professor Feenstra who made ample use of the Peace Palace Library Grotius collection.
The Peace Palace Library has started a “Mare Liberum – Wiki – Research Guide”, a new way to facilitate research, offering easy access to library material, bibliographic information and external links. This guide is a flexible tool embedded in a network of thematic guides, to keep researchers up to date with the latest development in this field.

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