Hugo Grotius’s De iure belli ac pacis: A Report on the Worldwide Census of the Sixth Edition (1642, Blaeu)

In: Grotiana
Edward Jones Corredera Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germanyand University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Pablo Nicolas Dufour Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany

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Lara Muschel Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany

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Emanuele Salerno Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany

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Timothy Twining KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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Mark Somos Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany

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Open Access


This article constitutes the sixth instalment in our series on the census and study of the reception of the first nine editions of De iure belli ac pacis. This edition has long held a prominent place in studies and editions of Grotius’s work since it was the last published during his lifetime. The report first outlines the genesis of the edition in the context of Grotius’s relationship with Johann Blaeu (1596–1673) and Cornelius Blaeu (1610–1642), who had recently inherited the Blaeu print firm from their father Willem. It then elucidates a number of crucial ways in which the 1642 edition differed from the five previous editions, especially via the addition of an extensive new series of annotations to ibp and a separate set addressed to the Epistle of Philemon. Finally, it concludes by providing the preliminary results of the census concerning the one hundred and twenty-one copies we have found.

1 Introduction

The 1642 ibp is the first edition produced by Willem Blaeu’s sons, Johann and Cornelius. Dr. Johann Blaeu, born in Alkmaar, became a doctor in law in 1620 (Leiden) and took over his father’s business with his younger brother, who was also credited on the 1642 ibp title page shortly before his untimely death.1 It is reasonable to assume that in one form or another the brothers were already involved in the production of the 1631 and 1632 Blaeu ibp editions.2 In 1637, the year before his death, Willem opened a new printshop on the Bloemgracht, where his sons kept nine or ten presses running.3 In 1644 Bartholdus Nihusius, then working for the firm as a corrector, reported that Johann Blaeu had seventy-five employees, seven presses for cartographical works, and another nine presses for other publications.4 By 1662, Johann’s shop also operated six copperplate presses to produce illustrations for his books.5 It was not without good reason that his contemporaries referred to him as ‘typographorum princeps’.6

Under Johann, the Blaeu firm continued to be best known for their prestigious cartographic publications. Johann had evidently trained in this field under his father (their names appear together on a cartographic imprint as early as 1631), and on Willem’s death he immediately succeeded him in the position of official cartographer for the voc.7 In the decade that followed he oversaw – in constant competition with the rival firm operated by Johann Janssonius – the enlargement of the firm’s Theatrum orbis terrarum, which increased from two volumes in 1635 to six by 1659.8 His subsequent Atlas Maior has been lauded ever since its first appearance in 1662 as one of the greatest typographic achievements of the century and the archetypal expression of Dutch power.9 These publications were coupled with the firm’s international expansion. While Gustav Adolf, King of Sweden, appointed Johann his printer (potentially, one is tempted to posit, at Grotius’s advice or suggestion), so the year 1659 saw Blaeu establish a company in Vienna in concert with the publisher Alexander Hartung.10 The firm’s cartographic publications and its international scope could also go hand in hand: the completion of the Theatrum civitatum et admirandorum Italiae of the Atlas Maior depended on the cultivation of ties with members of the Republic of Letters in Italy, especially through the links forged by Johann’s son Pieter while he visited the region.11

Much like his father, Johann did not restrict the firm’s output solely to cartographic works, and he notably continued to publish projects that had the potential for controversy. Such could include, for example, divisive works of contemporary erudition, and Blaeu was responsible for publishing Gerardus Johannes Vossius’s De theologia gentili (1641). Though possibly a Remonstrant like his parents, Johann was also well-known as a printer of Catholic texts.12 In 1642, the same year he printed the new ibp after a ten-year hiatus from the previous edition, Johann and his brother got into trouble for publishing a Socinian text that Dutch authorities deemed heretical and burned.13 In their haste, however, the schepens had overlooked consulting the burgomasters regarding the issue and their outrage in not having been consulted led to the verdict, and the Blaeus’ fine, being overturned.14

International connections, Remonstrant authors, the potential for intense controversy: all these things would come together in Blaeu’s role as a publisher of Grotius’s work. In this, Blaeu continued, as we have seen in previous research notes, a long-running relationship between his firm and Grotius.15 Unlike in the case of the 1632 edition, however, which had had the facility of ready access to the author himself in the spring of 1632, the 1642 edition was completed while Grotius was in Paris. He and the firm consequently worked through intermediaries, with Vossius and Grotius’s brother, Willem, playing key roles interceding with Blaeu and negotiating with the publisher on Grotius’s behalf.

There was a lot to negotiate. Blaeu operated as Grotius’s favoured printer during this period, one whose employees were by 1639 very familiar with Grotius’s handwriting.16 Grotius turned to Blaeu for works that had the potential to cause dangerous controversy. While Grotius’s edition of Tacitus with his notes and emendations was published by the Elzevir press in Leiden in 1640 (tmd 515), it was to Blaeu’s firm in Amsterdam that Grotius would send a succession of theological works, including De Antichristo (tmd 1100), De fide et operibus (tmd 1109), the Explicatio decalogi (tmd 1117) and the Appendix to the Antichristo (tmd 1128).17 Of these, the first three were published anonymously, indicative of their contentious content. It was also to Blaeu, meanwhile, that Grotius would direct the Annotationes in libros Evangeliorum (tmd 1135), a work he considered of totemic import for his overarching intellectual concerns, and whose difficult and complicated printing process would affect his relationship with the printshop.18

In the midst of the preparations for these publications, Grotius was also considering whether it might be possible to find the time to publish a new edition of ibp. This was in part a result of Grotius’s sense of his own mortality, and his desire to see these editions through the press (and bequeath them to posterity) while he was still alive.19 Other factors played a role too. One was Blaeu’s own apparent desire to publish a new edition of the work. As early as January 1639 Pieter de Groot, Grotius’s son, informed his father that Blaeu had recently written to him asking if Grotius had anything he would like to add to a prospective new edition of ibp.20 The publisher would address Grotius himself on this issue shortly after, in early March of the same year.21 Blaeu’s intent to publish a new edition here seems to have meshed well with Grotius’s own designs. Not only was Grotius himself also keen for another edition to appear, but also, as he would write to a range of correspondents, including Willem de Groot, Martin Opitz and Meric Casaubon, he could already confirm that it would be enriched with a wide array of new pieces of ancient and more recent testimony in support of his arguments.22 These were not made as separate notes, but instead added into the margins of a copy of ibp in Grotius’s possession, which by November 1639 he was ready to send to the Dutch Republic for Vossius’s inspection before committing them to a press.23

Many of these notes would subsequently be recognised as having considerable import for refining the thrust of Grotius’s views on certain key issues. Recently, for example, Benjamin Straumann has drawn attention to the way in which Grotius now invoked the Melian debate at the end of the Prolegomena,24 the significance of how in his ‘annotata’ to ibp II.2.2 he encouraged readers to revisit Seneca’s ninetieth letter to Lucilius,25 and why, in the notes to ibp II.17.1, he added a reference to the lex Aquilia.26 Our account of the composition of the 1642 edition adds a layer of further specificity to these findings, demonstrating that Grotius almost certainly composed and clarified these significant revisions by the end of the 1630s, many of them, it appears most probably, in the period in 1639 that followed Blaeu’s suggestion regarding the publication of a new edition.

It is important to note that even by this stage Grotius had not fixed on where to print the new edition, and was as open to sending the work to Sebastian Cramoisy in Paris as Blaeu in Amsterdam.27 He was concerned, for example, lest Blaeu’s fixation on another edition with additional information had little to do with Grotius’s own desires concerning how the work ought to appear, and more to do with the printer’s own private interests.28 It was for this reason that Grotius even suspected his wishes might not fully be respected, and he would stipulate that he would only commit the work to a press willing to print all his additions.29 The new edition of ibp, meanwhile, did not take precedence over other, more pressing, tasks. In particular, as Grotius explained to Vossius, he had a clear sense of the order in which he wanted his works published, with the theological tracts preceding any new edition of ibp.30

The decision to move forward with the new edition would not proceed entirely in line with Grotius’s wishes. In particular, he would come to claim he rued the decision by the man in possession of his annotated copy of ibp (most likely Vossius) to give it to Blaeu without his definitive instruction.31 Work, however, would be well underway by midsummer 1641, with Blaeu’s presses producing a new edition with Grotius’s marginal notes cast as ‘annotata’ at the end of each chapter. These were not the only major additions to the work. In particular, the 1642 edition was marked by its inclusion of Grotius’s commentary on Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, which Paul sent from jail to plead in favour of the converted Christian Onesimus, a runaway slave.32 According to exegetes, Grotius was the first to draw a parallel to Pliny’s letter to Sabinianus which, discusses a freedman in Sabinianus’ household who had committed an unstated offence. Grotius’s best-known comment on the text is that ‘[g]reat reverence is due to these who endure sufferings for the most honorable causes’. A further set of shorter additions, meanwhile, were two brief extracts regarding the advice Louis ix had given his son, admonishing him to take the utmost care in any decision to wage war against other Christians.33

The 1642 edition was the first Johann published following his father’s death. Rather than a new departure, however, it fits into the context of the Blaeus’ Amsterdam shop printing 10 editions of ibp in 40 years, between 1631 and 1670, often in fierce rivalry with Janssonius. After his brother Cornelius’s death in 1642, Johann would republish ibp with Philemon in 1646 (tmd 572) and some new notes, aiming to produce the definitive posthumous edition. In 1647, rival Dutch printer Hendrik Laurensz printed ibp with Philemon (tmd 573). Laurensz did not have the international fame of Blaeu, but he almost matched Blaeu’s output and wealth. Laurensz operated not only in Amsterdam and Leiden, but built a remarkably extensive subcontracting empire of at least fifty-two printers in sixteen towns.34 The 1647 edition was followed by Johann’s 1650 edition (tmd 574), described by tmd as very similar to the 1646, but ‘for the most part’ a new printing, with ‘a few sheets’ reused from the 1646 edition. The 1650 edition is the first ibp after the Treaty of Westphalia. In 1651, the year after, Johann was elected to the Amsterdam council and printed another ibp, possibly in response to Janssonius’ bombastic claim to have produced a new edition of ibp with Philemon in 1651. Janssonius may have attempted to repeat this practice in 1654, but Johann would only issue his next edition of ibp in 1660, with further editions in 1663, 1667 and 1670.35

2 Whence and Whither Philemon

The 1630s and 1640s saw disputes concerning the Bible reach a considerable pitch. Across Europe, between and within confessions, scholars and divines invested immense time and resources marshalling a wide array of evidence, including that drawn from newly-imported manuscript sources such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, assessing the text and history of the Bible and interrogating – often in light of such erudite researches – its theological meaning.36 Grotius was at the centre of these debates. By the early 1630s he was already renowned for his knowledge of the text. When Louis Cappel, for example, sought to publish his Critica sacra in Paris, it was to Grotius that he sent the work, endeavouring to obtain both Grotius’s agreement with his views and, he hoped, his patronage for its publication.37 Grotius was also on the cusp of launching his own series of since-celebrated works in biblical scholarship, the foremost of which numbered his monumental annotations on the Old and New Testament.38

This period also saw significant developments in contexts and settings beyond those principally conducted by elite scholars in Latin. It was notably a key moment in the history of the Bible in Dutch, one where the demands of publishing intersected with those of scholarship and translation. 1618 had seen the formal condemnation of the Remonstrance by the Synod of Dort, and the start of the Thirty Years’ War.39 Both events stimulated the growing print industry in the Netherlands and, in the context of this tumultuous year, the Synod engaged in an ambitious project. It established plans for the translation of the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament into Dutch, the so-called States Bible.40

Disputes over the nature and scope of the monopoly rights of the translators and the publishers plagued the project.41 The translators were initially granted the publication rights, which they were told to then share with a publisher of their choosing. The question of who represented the translators as a collective became a topic of intense debate, resolved by the proposal of the burgomasters of Leiden to act as their representatives. The burgomasters, however, had already agreed to a deal with the States printer in the Hague, Machteld van Wouw, that suited the interests of both the printer and the Leiden officials: in exchange for printing exclusively in Leiden, and not Amsterdam or The Hague, van Wouw was granted the rights to the folio, quarto, and octavo prints of the States Bible. The Amsterdam printers ignored the privilege and printed their own edition, while printers in Leiden stalled, since van Wouw had entrusted the printing process to a publisher from Amsterdam on the condition that he moved to Leiden. In the event, the first official publication of the States Bible only appeared in 1637. The Bible market exploded, with individuals of all faiths purchasing the copy and the States of Groningen ordering two copies to be purchased for each church.42

As Grotius arranged for his publications with Blaeu, then, they constituted both a direct intervention in pressing erudite and theological debates concerning the Bible and also a genuine business opportunity. The prospect of publishing not just some of the religious texts of one of the most famous Dutch authors of his time but, more specifically, his annotations on the Bible, carried a huge commercial incentive, which might also explain Johann Blaeu’s desire to keep three presses running to print the works of the Dutch jurist. Grotius’s theological works sold ‘like hot cakes’, with Blaeu rapidly having to print additional editions of De Antichristo to keep up with demand, including one which served as an appendix in the first edition of Grotius’s Annotationes in libros Evangeliorum.43 Although, as indicated in his November 1639 letter to Vossius, Grotius had carefully planned his next series of theological publications, contemporary events also interceded to disrupt this, and the opposition to De Antichristo by Samuel Maresius, amongst others, led Grotius to see hastily into print, and in his own name, a response lest he be silent too long in the face of such opponents.44 The speed at which Blaeu was attempting to work, and his apparent lack of suitably qualified correctors, affected his output: Blaeu’s correctors failed to identify many errors in Hebrew in the Annotationes. Grotius rushed the corrections to Blaeu. This haste only led to the multiplication of additional mistakes, leading to the eventual publication of a list of errata. When he received the copies, Grotius was shocked to find his engraved image in a book that was meant to testify to his humility as an author.45 In response, Grotius chose to publish the subsequent volumes of his exegesis in Paris, not in Amsterdam.46

There was one important exception to this rule, however. The 1642 edition of ibp contained, as we have seen, Grotius’s Commentary on Paul’s Letter to Philemon.47 This was prima facie a puzzling inclusion for reasons beyond its publication under Blaeu’s auspices. After Grotius had published his annotations on the Gospels, his focus had then turned to those on the Old Testament, and it was not until later in the decade that he would publish the rest of his annotations on the New Testament. The annotations were headed with a brief note, apparently from the printer, outlining that the subsequent text had recently ‘come into our hands’, and that it seemed fitting to include it since it seemed to touch directly on issues raised in several chapters of the ibp, specifically those concerning the right to make war and the conduct to be taken towards prisoners, and in particular under this broad rubric, the enslaved (ibp, i.2 and iii.7, 14).48 The text of this note, however, despite this apparently detached note of happenstance composition and the chance way the text had been chosen to be included, was not Blaeu’s invention. It was instead, as tmd rightly noted, a direct excerpt from a letter from Grotius to his brother Willem, in August 1641, in which Grotius responded to his brother’s queries about where to place and how to introduce the commentary on Philemon in ibp.49

The inclusion of Philemon, as this begins to imply, was very much Grotius’s choice. It was in fact prompted by an earlier letter, sent to Grotius in May 1641 by Nicolaes de Bye.50 Then resident in Alkmaar, de Bye was apparently known to Grotius, and had both been familiar with him in Leiden in the period of 1613–16 and even, for a time in the early 1620s, lived with him in Paris.51 De Bye’s precise religious affiliation is uncertain. While evidence from Grotius’s correspondence suggests he might have been a Mennonite, material drawn from the work and correspondence of Johannes Polyander and Simon Episcopius also indicates he had some Remonstrant connections.52 De Bye’s letter was of considerable length, with Grotius himself noting it was a ‘pamphlet’ or ‘little book’ rather than a letter.53 In it, de Bye contended against Grotius that the right of making war and of capital punishment was indeed taken away by the Gospel, and proceeded to work through and reject the twelve arguments Grotius had made in the counter position in ibp I.2.7.54

While Grotius apparently thought well of de Bye as a Christian, noting he was a ‘pious man’, he did not think the same of his arguments, explaining to his brother in early May 1641 how far he feared for the consequences were Christian rulers not allowed to engage in war or use the full range of penalties to maintain civil order.55 De Bye’s letter evidently weighed on Grotius. One week later he wrote to his brother again, noting some other points had come to mind in the context of the issues de Bye had raised.56 In ibp Grotius had provided the cases of Sergius Paulus, Vice-Praetor of Cyprus, and the reported King of Edessa, Abgarus, who, in a period Grotius believed coeval with that covered by the New Testament, were either believers or sympathetic to Christianity without forsaking institutionalised violence.57 In the time since he received de Bye’s letter, he explained to his brother, other such examples had occurred to him, among them Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Neither of these, he noted, had been told by Christ to abdicate their roles as Roman civil authorities, even though it was evident that they could be responsible for inflicting capital punishment on criminals. Further still, he explained, in his Letter to Philemon Paul did not advise Philemon to give up his dominion over those he had enslaved (which implicitly included immense power and coercion), but only asked, on the basis of exceptional grounds, for Onesimus to be forgiven.58

Although Grotius was initially uncertain about how to proceed, he had soon fixed on the idea of answering de Bye’s challenge. Rather than do this directly and risk provoking a pamphlet skirmish between the two men, he instead rapidly drew up a small commentary on the Letter to Philemon, in which he treated the issues regarding the rights of masters over slaves and whether Christians could wield temporal power.59 Grotius’s commentary was a subtle rejoinder to de Bye’s letter: nowhere was it evident that it had emerged from a series of controversial objections to ibp, much less was de Bye named as its opponent. Further, it was precisely similar in form to the rest of Grotius’s contemporaneous biblical annotations, replete with linguistic, philological, and exegetical matters touching on an innumerable array of problems and questions in the letter and it would later be reprinted in the second volume of his Annotations on the New Testament. However, the commentary did provide some answers de Bye’s objections. Lodged at the centre of the annotations, Grotius’s lengthiest comment focused on Philemon 1:15, drawing out the implications of what Paul meant when he said Philemon could now ‘have [Onesimus] back forever’ (‘ἵνα αἰώνιον αὐτὸν ͗έχῃς’). This key phrase, Grotius explained, indicated that the Gospel did not upend social relations, but instead permitted masters to maintain their place over those they had enslaved. Grotius likewise took the opportunity to argue that this also showed it could be inferred that the same could be said of kings or those holding civil power, and – here directly returning to the themes of his letter to Willem – noted that Christ had never told Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to leave their positions.60

Having completed the commentary, Grotius hastened to send it to the Dutch Republic. It was also important for Grotius to gauge the views of others regarding it.61 Willem, on receiving a copy, noted that he had warmly appreciated it, including what Grotius had averred about slavery and the implications he had drawn for civil magistracy.62 He had also shown it to the Remonstrant theologian Johannes Wtenbogaert, then present in Amsterdam, who promised to write to Grotius with his own views on the tract. While this letter is apparently no longer extant, he does not appear to have subsequently attempted to dissuade Grotius from publishing the work, who by early August indicated he had only heard good things from the important figures Willem had shown it to. He was now confirmed in his views, and decided to add it to ibp.63

Grotius’s commentary on Philemon would be the last of his biblical annotations Blaeu published. While Blaeu had, as we have seen, taken a keen role prompting this new edition, so too did he play a role in its production, since he intended to correct the work himself.64 In this, it is tempting to posit a final speculation regarding how far its author’s apparent willingness to countenance the operation of slavery in a Christian society stuck in the mind of the Dutch printer who would himself one day engage in the early modern slave trade.65

3 Preliminary Results of the Census

We located 121 surviving copies of this edition (Table 1). So far we have only been able to personally examine thirty copies, fourteen of which contain substantial annotations.


The already illustrated great haste in the publication of this edition inevitably led to several problems, as Grotius also noted with displeasure indicating that the more he looked at it the more errors he discovered: ‘Quo magis introspicio novam editionem de Iure belli ac pacis, eo plura reperio errata, quae sensum turbant’.66 This report offers new evidence of the mistakes produced in the printing process, primarily with respect to mispagination. Namely, the page numbers 127–144 are repeated (but the content continues correctly), i.e., after p. 144 the numbering begins again with a second set of pages 127–144,67 and page 353 appears numbered as 35.

Moreover, we identified five typographical variations which we have not encountered in the secondary literature of the 1642 edition we have consulted so far, including the tmd.

On p. 484, at the final line the word ‘redimentem’ shows variation (figs. 1, 2, and 3).

Figure 1
Figure 1

From p. 484 of the Tilburg copy (vi/68)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 2
Figure 2

From p. 484 of the Prague copy (vi/5)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 3
Figure 3

From p. 484 of the Amsterdam copy (vi/61)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

At p. 505, there is a variation of ‘quominori’ as ‘quo minori’ (figs. 4 and 5).

Figure 4
Figure 4

From p. 505 of the Tilburg copy (vi/68)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 5
Figure 5

From p. 505 of the Lyon copy (vi/19)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

On p. 539, the copies we have collected so far reveal variations on the Roman numeral reference: ‘§. vi.’ vs ‘§. vii’ (figs. 6 and 7).

Figure 6
Figure 6

From p. 539 of the Tilburg copy (vi/68)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 7
Figure 7

From p. 539 of the Prague copy (vi/5)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

As also appears on p. 547: ‘§. ii.’ vs ‘§. iii’ (figs. 8 and 9).

Figure 8
Figure 8

From p. 547 of the Tilburg copy (vi/68)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 9
Figure 9

From p. 547 of the Prague copy (vi/5)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Finally, at p. 581 we observed the lack of a full reference (figs. 10 and 11).

Figure 10
Figure 10

From p. 581 of the Tilburg copy (vi/68)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Figure 11
Figure 11

From p. 581 of the Lyon copy (vi/19)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

4 Notable Copies

Our inspection of copies of the 1642 edition has not yet uncovered, in a manner equivalent to those discussed in the report dedicated to the 1632 Blaeu version, an array of heavily annotated editions used by the leading political, legal, or intellectual figures of the age. Those exemplars which we have examined, however, do still speak to the immediate reception of Grotius’s work, and the way in which early readers and collectors engaged with, and obtained copies of, the 1642 text. In some cases, these suggest direct links to Grotius. It has long been known that Grotius himself distributed copies of the edition, notably intending an exemplar to be sent to Daniel Heinsius, while also requesting twenty of his copies to be sent to France.68 Grotius singled out one of these copies for special treatment, insisting that it should be ensured that the copy intended for the Bibliothèque of de Thou, then overseen by the brothers Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, not to be bound, since they had their own preferred means of binding books.69 The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève contains a remarkable copy (vi/25), sumptuously bound by the celebrated seventeenth-century book binder known as Le Gascon (fig. 12). Le Gascon has long been known to number the Dupuy brothers among his customers, and it is thus undoubtedly possible – and hopefully further research will make it possible to establish – that this exemplar, bound, like many of Le Gascon’s works, in red morocco, was the one they received directly from the author.70

Figure 12
Figure 12

Binding of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève copy (vi/25)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Other copies testify to the way in which Grotius’s work was received within and between different confessional groups at the time. In particular, and continuing a theme of our findings thus far, Grotius’s work seems to have been widely sought after by Catholic readers. Such include, for example, the considerable number of copies located in France, which are evidence not only of Grotius’s close links to French intellectual circles but also how keenly and avidly his work was subsequently purchased and studied there. Of the twenty-six copies in France that we have uncovered, some show notable signs of the period’s intense legal and theological conflicts, in which Grotius himself was directly and signally involved. A copy now held by the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal (vi/22), for example, reveals a contemporary reader noting keenly where Grotius disagreed with Selden’s interpretation of ancient Hebrew law and, in an area marked by even more controversy, the views of Faustus Socinus (fig. 13).

Figures 13–16
Figures 13–16

Images from Bibliothèque de d’Arsenal copy (vi/22)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

Finally, we have found evidence that shows how quickly the edition had spread to Catholic readers much further afield, with a Premonstratensian monastery of Chotěšov (‘Cotierchouiensis’) in the Czech Republic, which potentially purchased a copy as early as 1642 (vi/5, fig. 17).

Figure 17
Figure 17

Title page of the Prague copy (vi/5)

Citation: Grotiana 43, 2 (2022) ; 10.1163/18760759-43020004

5 Conclusion

The 1642 edition has a special place in the history of ibp, since it stands as the last edition published during Grotius’s lifetime and consequently the last in which he was able to take an active role while the book was being printed. This point has to be underlined, since, as we have shown throughout this research note, Grotius had not yet come to view ibp as a finished product, but instead, and even as the work went through the press, sought to add more material to it. In part, these additions constituted a mass of additional historical testimony, the significance of which is still to be fully examined. It also, however, involved a discrete attempt to answer some of ibp’s critics, and especially the challenge raised against the work by Nicolaes de Bye. In so doing, it can be contended that from this edition on Grotius intended his commentary to Philemon to be recognised as an important part of ibp itself. This may well lead one to challenge whether subsequent posthumous editions that remove it from the work risk departing from its author’s final views, and especially the degree to which Grotius himself believed the commentary clarified or reaffirmed some of his central claims. In highlighting this point, this report underlines the close intersection of Grotius’s work in jurisprudence and natural law and his views regarding the New Testament and its exegesis.


We are grateful to Matthew Cleary, Francesca Iurlaro, Dániel Margócsy, Jonathan Nathan, and our colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Law and Public International Law for their help, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for generous financial support (grants so 1807/1 and so 1807/2).


Herman de la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Dr. Joan Blaeu and his sons’, Quaerendo 11 (1981), 5–23; Marijke Donkersloot-de Vrij, Drie generaties Blaeu. Amsterdamse cartografie en boekdrukkunst in de zeventiende eeuw (Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 1992); Djoeke van Netten, Koopman in kennis: de uitgever Willem Jansz Blaeu (1571–1638) in de geleerde wereld van zijn tijd (Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 2014).


Cornelis Koeman, Joan Blaeu and his Grand Atlas (London: George Philip & Son, 1970), p. 7, indicates Johann, at least, was active in the firm by 1630.


Henk Nellen, Hugo Grotius: A Lifelong Struggle for Peace in Church and State, 1583–1645 (Leiden: Brill, 2015), p. 589.


Ibid., p. 620.


Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The Bookshop of the World: Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019), p. 111.


De la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Dr. Joan Blaeu’, p. 13, quoting a letter from the Parisian advocat Claude Sarrau to the scholar David Blondel, 5 November 1650.


Koeman, Joan Blaeu and his Grand Atlas, pp. 7–8.


Ibid., pp. 31–9.


Pettegree and der Weduwen, Bookshop, pp. 110–5; Koeman, Joan Blaeu and his Grand Atlas.


On Johann Blaeu and his father Willem, see Johannes Keuning, s.v., in Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek (Leiden: A. W. Slijthoff, 1911–37), 10, pp. 68–73, 74–8 (online access:; de la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Dr. Joan Blaeu’, p. 15.


Gloria Moorman, ‘Publishers at the Intersection of Cultures: The Significance of Italo-Dutch contacts in the Creation Process of Joan Blaeu’s Theatrum Italiae (1663)’, Incontri. Rivista Europea di Studi Italiani 30 (2015), 70–9. For Pieter’s relations with Italy, see Henk Th. van Veen, ‘Pieter Blaeu and Antonio Magliabechi’, Quaerendo 12 (1982), 130–58.


Ibid.; Nellen, Grotius, p. 620; Pettegree and der Weduwen, Bookshop, pp. 342–3. Paul Begheyn, Jesuit Books in the Dutch Republic and its Generality Lands, 1567–1773: A Bibliography (Leiden: Brill, 2014), esp. pp. 8–9, 44–5.


De la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Dr. Joan Blaeu, pp. 8–9; Pettegree and der Weduwen, Bookshop, p. 330.


De la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Dr. Joan Blaeu’, p. 9.


See research notes to the 1631 and 1632 editions.


Nellen, Grotius, p. 615.


On reconstructing the Blaeus’ printing process of these works by analysing ornamental capitals and arrangements on the pages, see Paula P. Witkam, ‘Double Use of Type Matter in the Print Shop of Joannes and Cornelius Blaeu (1640–1)’, Quaerendo 16 (1986), 63–5.


On this, see Nellen, Grotius, pp. 590, 620–9.


Briefwisseling van Hugo Grotius (henceforth bw), ed. by Philipp Christiaan Molhuysen et al., 17 vols. in the series Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1928–2001), xi, no. 4761, Hugo Grotius to Gerardus Johannes Vossius, 28 July 1640.


bw, x, no. 3944, Pieter de Groot to Hugo Grotius, 24 January 1639.


Ibid., no. 4006, Johann Blaeu to Hugo Grotius, 7 March 1639.


Ibid., no. 4132, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 28 May 1639; no. 4276, Hugo Grotius to Martin Opitz, 1 September 1639; no. 4301, Hugo Grotius to Meric Casaubon, 19 September 1639.


Ibid., no. 4367, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 5 November 1639; no. 4409, Hugo Grotius to Gerardus Johannes Vossius, 30 November 1639; bw, xii, no. 5241, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 22 June 1641. The last of which letters confirms that Grotius had added his notes to a copy of ibp. It is unfortunately unclear which edition this was, but it seems most plausible it was a copy of the 1631 edition, considering the amount of space needed for the additions Grotius intended to make. Grotius was also preparing an extensive apparatus of testimonies for the 1640 edition of De veritate (Paris, Cramoisy) (tmd 950). See Nellen, Grotius, pp. 424–5.


ibp 1642, at **6.


Ibid., at p. 121.


Ibid., at p. 273; Benjamin Straumann, Roman Law in the State of Nature: The Classical Foundations of Hugo Grotius’ Natural Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 61, 185, 212.


bw, x, no. 4288, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 10 September 1639; no. 4367, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 5 November 1639. For additional discussion of Grotius’s negotiations with printers in this period, see Nellen, Grotius, pp. 618–29.


bw, x, no. 4314, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 1 October 1639.


Ibid., no. 4367, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 5 November 1639.


Ibid., no. 4409, Hugo Grotius to Gerardus Johannes Vossius, 30 November 1639.


bw, xii, no. 5241, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 22 June 1641.


Hugo Grotius, De iure belli ac pacis (Amsterdam: Blaeu, 1642), pp. 595–601.


Ibid., p. 594. On the inclusion of these extracts, see bw, xii, no. 5340, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 31 August 1641; no. 5351, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 7 September 1641, where Grotius describes the extracts, to be added at the end of ibp, as ‘praecepta quaedam a S. Ludovico data filio Philippo ad cavenda bella inter christianos’.


Arthur der Weduwen, ‘Fear and Loathing in Weesp: Personal and Political Networks in the Dutch Print World’, in Negotiating Conflict and Controversy in the Early Modern Book World, ed. by Alexander S. Wilkinson and Graeme J. Kemp, (Leiden: Brill, 2019), pp. 88–106, at pp. 94–6.


There is considerable uncertainty as to whether Janssonius did in fact publish a new edition in 1654. There are two copies held by the Palace Peace Library, The Hague, whose imprint reads ‘1654’ (shelfmarks oh 58 H 37 and tmd 576 seq. 1654), but – pending the discovery of additional copies – these may simply represent pirated copies with a roman numeral ‘v’ added to the ‘mdcli’.


See the discussion in Mark Somos, ‘Selden’s Mare Clausum: The Secularisation of International Law and the Rise of Soft Imperialism’, Journal of the History of International Law 14 (2012), 287–330; Timothy Twining, ‘The Early Modern Debate over the Age of the Hebrew Vowel Points: Biblical Criticism and Hebrew Scholarship in the Confessional Republic of Letters’, Journal of the History of Ideas 81 (2020), 337–58; Nicholas Hardy, Criticism and Confession: The Bible in the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).


bw, vi, no. 2324, Louis Cappel to Hugo Grotius, 28 October 1635; no. 2436, Louis Cappel to Hugo Grotius, 11 January 1636.


On Grotius’s biblical exegesis see Mark Somos, ‘Secularization in De Iure Praedae: From Bible Criticism to International Law’, in Property, Piracy and Punishment: Hugo Grotius on War and Booty in De iure praedae – Concepts and Contexts, ed. by Hans Blom (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 147–91; Id., Secularisation and the Leiden Circle (Leiden, Boston: Brill 2011), pp. 383–445; Dirk van Miert, ‘The Janus Face of Scaliger’s Philological Heritage: The Biblical Annotations of Heinsius and Grotius’, in Scriptural Authority and Biblical Criticism in the Dutch Golden Age: God’s Word Questioned, ed. by Dirk van Miert, Henk Nellen, Piet Steenbakkers, and Jetze Touber (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 91–108; Hardy, Criticism and Confession.


Somos, Secularisation, pp. 8, 54.


On this work, see Dirk van Miert, The Emancipation of Biblical Philology in the Dutch Republic, 1590–1670 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 78–102. On Hebrew, linguistics, and the Leiden Circle see Somos, Secularisation, pp. 83, 321; Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg, “I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2011); Anthony Grafton, Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020), pp. 232–53; Twining, ‘The Early Modern Debate over the Age of the Hebrew Vowel Points’.


Arthur der Weduwen, ‘The Politics of Print in the Dutch Golden Age: The Ommelander Troubles (c. 1630–1680)’, in Print and Power in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800), ed. by Nina Lamal, Jamie Cumby, and Helmer J. Helmers (Leiden: Brill, 2021), pp. 148–77, at p. 156; Pettegree and der Weduwen, Bookshop, p. 126.


Pettegree and der Weduwen, Bookshop, pp. 128–9.


Nellen, Grotius, p. 624.


bw, xii, no. 5159, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 27 April 1641.


Nellen, Grotius, pp. 622–5.


Ibid., p. 626. On the Bible and the reception of Grotius’s ideas see Somos, Secularisation, pp. 383–445, esp. 388–91.


See Henk Nellen, ‘Hugo Grotius and the Right to Wage War’, in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Upsaliensis. Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies (Uppsala 2009), ed. by Astrid Steiner-Weber et al. (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2012), Volume 2, pp. 745–55.


Grotius, De iure belli ac pacis, p. 595, ‘Cum circa hoc tempus in manus nostras venisset scriptoris hujus commentatio in epistolam Pauli ad Philemonem, visum est eam hic ponere, tum quia quaedam continet non aliena ab his, quae in hoc opera, lib. i, cap. ii et lib. iii, cap. vii et cap. xiv tractantur’.


bw, xii, no. 5303, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 3 August 1641.


Ibid., no. 5145, Nicolaes de Bye to Hugo Grotius, 15 April 1641. This connection has briefly been noted before, including in tmd, p. 231. However, this entry, while acknowledging de Bye’s letter was the proximate cause for Grotius’s inclusion of the Commentary on Philemon, does not extensively analyse or explain how or where Grotius believed the annotations responded to de Bye’s arguments.


For information on de Bye, see Ibid., p. 224, n. 1 and no. 5168, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 4 May 1641.




bw, xii, no. 5168, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 4 May 1641, referring to de Bye’s letter as a ‘libellum magis quam epistolam’.


Ibid., no. 5145, Nicolaes de Bye to Hugo Grotius, 15 April 1641.


Ibid., no. 5168, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 4 May 1641, using the turn of phrase ‘vir pius’.


Ibid., no. 5181, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 12 May 1641.


ibp, i.2.7 (at sub-para. 4, since ibp 1667).


bw, xii, no. 5181, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 12 May 1641.


Ibid., no. 5241, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 22 June 1641, where he described the work as a ‘commentatiunculam’.


ibp 1642, p. 599.


bw, xii, no. 5241, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 22 June 1641, noting that his decision to append it to ibp would also depend on his friends’ verdicts, ‘si amici id e re iudicent’.


Ibid., no. 5257, Willem de Groot to Hugo Grotius, 1 July 1641.


Ibid., no. 5303, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 3 August 1641. Was the inclusion of the commentary on Philemon the only change Grotius made in response to de Bye’s challenge? The subject requires additional research, but it is intriguing that in the 1642 edition Grotius diminished the number of arguments he made in ibp I.2.7 by one, removing the argument concerning the Apocalypse. This change had previously been noted in de Kanter van Hettinga Tromp’s ibp scholarly edition, albeit without the connection to de Bye’s arguments. There it is also indicated that the 1646 edition likewise does not contain the argument taken from Apocalypse. While it is present in the 1647 edition (a reissue of the 1631 text), it is also not found in the 1650 edition.


bw, xii, no. 5066, Willem de Groot to Hugo Grotius, 18 February 1641.


For Blaeu himself working as a corrector on the edition of ibp, see ibid., Willem de Groot to Hugo Grotius, 18 February 1641, noting that ‘cuius emendationem ipse doctor Blavius sibi sumet’. On Blaeu’s involvement in the slave trade, see Koeman, Joan Blaeu and his Grand Atlas, pp. 9–10.


bw, xiii, no. 5739, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 7 June 1642.


This second group of pages occupies the signatures K8-L1v.


On the presentation copy for Heinsius, see Nellen, Grotius, p. 737.


bw, xii, no. 5512, Hugo Grotius to Willem de Groot, 21 December 1641.


On Le Gascon, including his connections to the de Thou library and Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, see Ernest Thoinan, Les relieurs français (1500–1800). Biographie critique et anecdotique (Paris, 1893), pp. 290–7.

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