Grotius Collection


In 1914, the Hague publisher Martinus Nijhoff donated to the recently established Library of the Peace Palace a collection comprising 55 editions of De Iure Belli ac Pacis (English: On the Law of War and Peace), the most famous work by the great Dutch humanist and jurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). The Nijhoff collection comprised editions in Latin, the original language of the publication, as well as in French, English, German and Dutch. Imprints ranged from 1625 to 1901.

The gift from Nijhoff was singularly appropriate because De Iure Belli ac Pacis is a milestone in the history of international law. In this work, Grotius lays out his doctrine of natural law as the basis for the justifiable war. For a long period, De Iure Belli ac Pacis was granted such high significance that its author was regarded as the 'father of international law'. The work aroused much interest at the very beginning of the period between the two World Wars because the conviction gained ground that Grotius' body of thought could provide an answer to the question of how to clear away the violence of war and cultivate a lasting peace.

Using the gift from Nijhoff as foundation, subsequent librarians of the Peace Palace have strived to expand the collection: many other works of Grotius were added, or obtained in photocopy-form from other libraries, with the aim of bringing together as complete a corpus as possible. The Grotius collection at the Peace Palace Library holds approximately 200 editions of De Iure Belli ac Pacis (in all languages imaginable), and 100 other legal works including Mare Liberum and Inleidinghe tot de Hollandsche Rechts-geleerheid, as well as Grotius’ contributions to history, theology, philology, and poetry – a total of more than 1200 volumes spanning 50 meters of shelves. The collection of Grotiana in the Peace Palace Library is the largest anywhere in the world. For more information, contact us at

Jacob ter Meulen

Hence, the Peace Palace Library can function as a home for research into the life and work of Hugo Grotius. In this respect, Jacob ter Meulen is worthy of special mention. Ter Meulen, librarian at the Peace Palace from 1924 until 1952, has been of immeasurable service to the field of Grotius research. Following years of intensive bibliographical investigation, in 1950 he published, together with his colleague P.J.J. Diermanse, the Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff), which contains an exhaustive description of every known edition of Grotius' works. The book, known by Grotius specialists simply as TMD, is an indispensable work of reference for any serious researcher into the life and work of Grotius. In 1961, Ter Meulen and Diermanse published another edition of Bibliographie des écrits sur Hugo Grotius, imprimés au XVII siècle (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff), a bibliography that includes all minor seventeenth century literature devoted to Hugo Grotius.

And finally, The Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace Library: A Concise Catalogue (ed. by A.C. Eyffinger, Assen, Van Gorcum) 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.

Grotius Collection Online

Grotius Collection Online: Printed Works

The Grotius Collection Online, which is available through Brill, consists of 267 printed works by Dutch humanist and jurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and are published between 1609-1941. Since the opening of the Peace Palace in 1913, these publications have been held here in our Library as part of the renowned Grotius collection. A total of 205 titles from this collection were published on microfiche at an earlier stage in the collections on international law and jurisprudence. Later on, 18 more titles have been digitized from microfiche, that were not published before. The last 44 titles have been newly scanned and added to this online collection. A highlight of this database is the rare first state of the first edition of the De Iure Belli ac Pacis, purchased in 2012 by the Peace Palace Library.

The result is an indispensable source of information covering a wide range of disciplines. From law, jurisprudence and diplomacy to philosophy, history and theology. This collection enables scholars to examine the work of Hugo Grotius, quickly and efficiently online. The titles in this collection can be divided into a few subject categories and are written in several tongues, including English, French, Spanish, Polish, German, Dutch, Italian, Latin and various other languages. Subject categories are history (works by Hugo Grotius), jurisprudence (works by Hugo Grotius), international law (works on Hugo Grotius), écritures (works on Hugo Grotius), theology (works on Hugo Grotius), and poetry (works by Hugo Grotius).

Journal and biography