the foundation of modern maritime law and of life insurance
(MARITIME LAW). ~ Ordonnance de Louis XIV, roy de France et de Navarre. Donée à Fontainebleau au mois d’Aoust 1681. Touchant la Marine. Paris: Denys Thierry and Christophle Ballard, 1681.
4to (240 × 190 mm), pp. [viii], 273,  blank,  including privilege leaf at end. Woodcut royal device to title, numerous wooodcut and typographical ornaments to text. Old inkstain to lower edge towards the spine, running about 4 mm into lower margins of most leaves towards the gutter. Contemporary sprinkled calf, spine with five raised bands, gilt. Minor neat old repairs to corners and joints. A very good copy.
FIRST EDITION of Colbert’s famous codification for Louis XIV, the basis of modern maritime law in all parts of the world. The Ordonnance occupies an important place in the history of insurance, both in the field of marine insurance (which is fully described) and life insurance, since it allows (probably for the first time in print) that in limited circumstances lives may be insured as opposed to just goods. This arose from the need for ship owners to insure cargos of slaves or against the possibility of the capture and ransome of passengers and crew. While the Ordonnance expressly excludes the possibility of insuring lives in general, an exception is made in the case of slaves (since they were legally ‘goods’ rather than lives) whose value could be insured. Since ransomed individuals could acquire a monetary ‘price’, French slavers were thus able to create a legal fiction where the price originally paid for a slave could be expressed as a ransom and thus become an insurable figure (provided the slave die in other than ‘natural’ circumstances). The codification of procedure in these cases thus began a culture in which human life could be valued in monetary terms for the purpose of insurance (see Armstrong, The Logic of Slavery, 2012, pp. 15-16)