Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a great humanistic polymath, lawyer and legal theorist, diplomat and political philosopher, ecumenical activist and theologian.
Written in an elegant, humanist Latin, Grotius' work was made available for sale at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the spring of 1625, and it proved to be an immediate sensation. "By the end of the seventeenth century there had been twenty-six editions of the Latin text, and it had been translated into Dutch. . .English. . .and French. Its popularity scarcely slackened in the eighteenth century: there were twenty Latin editions, six French, five German, two Dutch, two English, and one Italian (and one Russian, circulated in manuscript)."
The text that Richard Tuck edited and the Liberty Fund has published is a 1738 English-language translation of the Latin edition prepared by the French Protestant lawyer Jean Barbeyrac in 1720 and published with a large set of notes. The notes, translated into English, are retained. This particular edition was extremely popular; George Washington himself owned a copy. The work fills three volumes spanning almost two thousand pages.
The Green Bag
As a political theorist, Hugo Grotius is especially interesting for his attempt to develop a natural-law alternative to the Thomistic natural law while at the same time resisting the modern doctrine of his younger contemporary, Thomas Hobbes. Liberty Fund has now republished in three volumes Grotius's masterwork of natural and international law, The Rights of War and Peace (1625). This edition is a double treat, for it is a reprint of the anonymous English translation (1738) of Jean Barbeyrac's French edition (1724). The latter includes a set of notes that have come to hold nearly as much interest as Grotius's text. Since the book is so learned--some might say inclined to name-dropping--Barbeyrac's notes are especially useful. But more than editorial comments, the notes also contain a running conversation, often debate, between Barbeyrac and Grotius. Barbeyrac, too, was extremely learned, and he brought to bear arguments from other natural-law writers, including later ones like Samuel Pufendorf. Richard Tuck of Harvard, one of the world's leading Grotius scholars, provides a brief introduction, supplying helpful context for the reader. As with all Liberty Fund editions, this is a beautiful set, selling at a generously affordable price.
Claremont Review of Books
Three volumes contain Grotius' classic text, originally published in 1625, in which he grounds his ideas about the state, the individual, and rights in "the design of the Creator" as manifested in the natural world, emphasizing self defense and self preservation. This Liberty Fund edition--based on the English text of 1738, containing extensive commentary by Jean Barbeyrac--also includes the Prolegomena to the first edition, a document heretofore untranslated into English. An introduction and annotations by Tuck (government, Harvard U.) provide context and highlight differences between the first and second editions.
Reference and Research Book News
Bound in three fine volumes (with continuous pagination), this is a new edition of the first English translation of Grotius's famous work. It was first printed in 1715, and in 1738 with numerous explanatory and (in part) critical notes. The notes come from Jean Barbeyrac's French edition, but the English version is mainly the work of John Morrice. Tuck's introduction places Grotius's work in its historical context, and explains its early reception. Tuck has also added a few notes of his own, and supplies an English version of the Prolegomena that were omitted in the 1738 version (to be found on pp. 1745-1762). As every specialist knows, there are several more recent English translations, and the present edition will most likely be consulted for its notes and long index...So what we have here is a seventeenth-century classic in the form in which it was studied by many in the eighteenth century. All libraries specializing on intellectual and legal history should have this important work.
International Review of Biblical Studies