The Correspondence of Hugo de Groot [Grotius] (8,034 letters)

Primary Contributors:

ePistolarium, CKCC project, Huygens ING, The Hague

Hugo de Groot, by Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld. 1631. (Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Hugo de Groot [Grotius] (1583–1645)

The colourful life of Hugo Grotius [Hugo, or Huigh, de Groot] as a diplomat, prison escapee — concealed in a clothes chest — and the victim of shipwreck washed up on the beaches of Rostock in his fifty-third year, does not belie his importance as a philosopher, political theorist, jurist, theologian, poet, and central figure to the correspondence networks of the first half of the seventeenth century.

Born in Delft, the son of a former student of Lipsius, Grotius enrolled at Leiden at the tender age of eleven. Having been part of an embassy from the Dutch Republic to France in 1598, he was selected by Maurice of Nassau to be Attorney General of Holland, Zeeland and West Friesland in 1607. Following his imprisonment in Loevestein and escape to France, Grotius settled in Paris, but, refusing to seek a pardon as many exiled Remonstrants did after the death of Maruice of Nassau, Grotius was expelled from the Dutch Republic and moved to Hamburg. It was on a voyage, as Sweden’s ambassador to France, that he was shipwrecked; he died a few months later, in Rostock.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The Circulation of Knowledge project [CKCC] was established in 2008 as a partnership between the Descartes Centre at the University of Utrecht, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING), the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The project began by digitizing the metadata and curating existing full-text transcriptions of c.20,000 letters to or from nine prominent intellectuals resident in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. In 2013, this material was published as open access in a sophisticated web application — the ePistolarium — which provides scholars with multiple means of exploring and analysing both metadata and full texts across all nine correspondences. As well as conducting full-text searches, mapping and graphing the metadata, and extracting people mentioned, the ePistolarium is capable of interrogating the entire corpus to analyse and visualize co-citation networks, and produces the results of keyword extraction and experimental topic-modelling.

CKCC’s 20,020 records represent the largest single dataset contributed to EMLO during the second phase of Cultures of Knowledge.  The re-publication of these records within EMLO marks the inauguration of the rolling incorporation of major new catalogues which will continue through 2015 and beyond. As well as integrating CKCC’s metadata into an expansive union catalogue, EMLO’s records link back to the original letter texts published within the ePistolarium.

The metadata and transcripts for Hugo Grotius’s correspondence were supplied to CKCC by Huygens ING under the supervision of Henk Nellen.

EMLO would like to thank Walter Ravenek for his careful preparation of CKCC metadata. Thanks are due also to Cultures of Knowledge’s Editor, Miranda Lewis, Editorial Assistant Mark Thakker, and first intern Charlotte Marique for their work on the people and place records associated with this correspondence.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

The metadata and texts for the transcriptions published in ePistolarium were taken from Briefwisseling van Hugo Grotius, eds, P.C. Molhuysen, B.L. Meulenbroek, P.P. Witkam, H.J.M. Nellen, and C.M. Ridderikhoff, 17 vols (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1928–2001).


Grotius’s correspondence is vast and, even during his lifetime, was scattered widely across Europe. Written largely in Latin, and peppered with Ancient Greek, his correspondence recorded currently in EMLO, of which 8,034 letters have come from the ePistolarium database, spans the years 1594 to August 1645, the month of his death.

A link is provided from each record in EMLO to the online transcription in the ePistolarium catalogue where, it should be noted, the Gregorian calendar is used throughout.

Scope of Catalogue

It should be noted that many of the origin and destination locations in this correspondence are still to be qualified as ‘inferred’. This work will be completed in the course of the coming months and, in the meantime, users are advised to refer to the transcription itself to see whether the origin and destination is stated or inferred.

Further resources


Published Editions

Briefwisseling van Hugo Grotius, eds P.C. Molhuysen, B.L. Meulenbroek, P.P. Witkam, H.J.M. Nellen and C.M. Ridderikhoff (The Hague, 1928–2001).

The complete text of Grotius’s correspondence as edited in the Briefwisseling van Hugo Grotius (The Hague, 1928–2001), including the extensive annotation, indexes and introductions, is available online as The Correspondence of Hugo Grotius, digital ed., 1st edn (October 2009).

Further Reading

Grotiana, ed. H.W. Blom, a Journal published under the auspices of the Grotiana Foundation (Leiden: The Grotiana Foundation, Brill, and Brill Online,

Launch Catalogue

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