Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New acquisition: a groundbreaking treatise on international law

This is a first edition of Emer de Vattel's groundbreaking work on international law, Le Droit de Gens (London, 1758). It was soon published in English as The Law of Nations in 1759-60, a publication that we also have in our collection. 

This particular copy grabbed my attention because it is in the original publisher's binding, which presumably was meant to be temporary. The pages are untrimmed, and you can see from the picture on the right that the label was placed upside down on the wrong end of the spine on volume 1. It looks exactly as it did when it was produced in 1758, with the exception of some wear around the edges of the boards. The internal pages are fresh, with lovely red and black title pages in both volumes. 

Vattel (1714-1767) was a disciple of the German philosopher Christian Wolff and echoed Wolff's belief in the importance of natural law in conjunction with positive law. Vattel believed that abiding by treaties was a sacred duty. His work was immensely influential in the colonies and early United States and was read by founders such as Franklin and Jefferson. An early American edition was published in Northhampton, Massachusetts in 1805.  Interestingly, this work is still cited today. A quick Westlaw case search for Vattel and the title brought up close to 250 results, with several from 2014! 

Many thanks to Joe Luttrell at Meyer Boswell for his insights on the binding. For more on Vattel and his influence, particularly in the colonies and early U.S., take a look at Jesse S. Reeves, "The Influence of the Law of Nature upon International Law in the United States," The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jul., 1909), pp. 547-561

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