SELDEN, John Mare clausum seu de dominio maris libri duo..

London, W. Stansby for R. Meighen, 1635


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp. [xxviii] 304 [xvi]. Mostly Roman letter, some Greek, a little Arabic and Hebrew. Title in red and black, two large engraved maps and woodcut illustrations to text, woodcut initials and headpieces. A few leaves lightly browned, a very good, clean, and well-margined copy in early 18th-century panelled calf, covers with blindstamped corner fleurons, joints and corners rubbed. Contemporary autograph ‘I. Hope’ in outer blank portion of title, autograph of R. Rigby of Christchurch, Oxford, ‘1673’ in upper blank portion, 18th-century autograph of W. Bayntun of Grays Inn’s below, early 19th-century autograph of ‘Lord Macclesfield’ on verso of initial blank, 19th-century armorial bookplate of the Earls of Macclesfield inside upper cover and their armorial blindstamp to title.

First edition of Selden’s seminal work on the law of the sea – one of the foundation stones of modern maritime law. Selden (1584-1654) was a celebrated jurist and politician, educated at Oxford, and a member of the Inner Temple. Called to the Bar in 1612, he was the friend of Ben Jonson and William Camden. After a successful political career, he retired to legal scholarship at the time of the Civil War. The present work was written for the occasion of an Anglo-Dutch conference on maritime law held in 1618 after disputes over fishing rights in the context of long-standing Anglo-Dutch rivalry. Selden prepared the present text to answer the Dutch party’s, which was led by Hugo Grotius – and who as early as 1609 had advocated in his Mare Clausum the opinion that the high seas were open to all. Selden here emphatically argues the opposite point, insisting that the oceans are just as much subject to the principle of private property as the land, and claiming for the Crown of Great Britain permanent and indivisible sovereignty over the surrounding seas, a view that as well as popular with time became modified into the doctrine of territorial waters albeit of varying extent. Selden’s claim was very pleasing to Charles I; the second edition was issued the following year. Selden makes passing references to the colonisation of Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583 and to the earlier explorations in that region made by ‘Sebastian’ Cabot – i.e. his father John – in 1497-98.

STC 22175; Lowndes VI 2237; Sabin 78971; Alden 635/114; JFB S238 "a classic in maritime law"; not in Goldsmiths.
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