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Mare Clausum seu De Dominio Maris Libri Duo.

London: William Stansby for Richard Meighen, 1635 Stock Code: 129464
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A classic of maritime law

First edition of a "classic of maritime law" (JFB), originally drafted around 1619 at the request of James I for an Anglo-Dutch conference on fishing rights. Among the Dutch representatives was Hugo Grotius, whose Mare Liberum of 1609 had proposed that the seas were free to all. The English lawyer and antiquarian Selden's purpose was to establish the contrary, that "the lordship of the circumambient ocean belongs to the crown of Great Britain as an indivisible and perpetual appendage". The treatise was not published at the time, as some passages were felt to be potentially offensive to the King of Denmark, to whom James was deeply in debt at the time. In 1635, seeking to impress Charles I, Selden revised his work "to take account of the minimalist theory of natural law contained in Hugo Grotius's De jure belli ac pacis of 1625 His revision combined a lengthy, sophisticated theoretical discussion of law with a partisan and reasonably well-documented history of the exercise of maritime dominion Written in Latin for an international audience, Mare clausum constituted a classic defence for the extreme position that states could legitimately claim and exercise extensive sovereignty over the high seas" (ODNB). "The political significance of Selden's work was instantly recognized both at home and abroad it more correctly represented what are now the admitted principles as to the appropriation of the adjacent sea than did most of the works written on the other side, not excepting even those of Grotius" (Fulton, The Sovereignty of the Sea).

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Folio (283 x 179 mm). Contemporary speckled calf, rebacked with original spine laid down, later red morocco label, triple blind rule to covers, red edges, metal clasps (re-attached). Early English vellum manuscript document used as binder's waste.


Title page printed in red and black, 2 large, finely engraved maps in the text, together with 1 woodcut map and a number of woodcut illustrations, tables.


Front pastedown separated, contemporary bookplate of Richard Grosvenor (1585-1645) to front board, 19th-century unlettered bookplate to both boards, contemporary pen trial to front endpaper. Initial and final blanks present. A couple of small chips to calf, very light browning at head of pages, tiny chip to p. 119 not affecting text, a few instances of faint finger-soiling. A very good copy, well-preserved, contents crisp.


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