A European bestseller twice inscribed

GEFTER, Avgust Vilgelm [August Wilhelm HEFFTER] and Konstantin TAUBE (translator)

Evropeiskoe mezhdunarodnoe pravo

[European International Law]

Publication: Bezobrasov, Skt. Peterburg, 1880.

GEFTER, Avgust Vilgelm [August Wilhelm HEFFTER] and Konstantin TAUBE (translator), Evropeiskoe mezhdunarodnoe pravo

Important legal treatise, here in a fine example of its first Russian edition, inscribed by the translator to his wife, and later to his son.

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Our Notes & References

First edition in Russian – an unusual, family copy twice inscribed by the translator: first, in a neat and elegant hand, to his then-fiancée Maria on 28 January 1880, less than a month before their wedding and just when the edition was hot off the press: “‘Labor omnia vincit’. To my angel and my adored companion Marusia from the ever faithful Kostia Taube.” Baron Konstantin Ferdinandovich von Taube (1854-1919) married Maria Nikolaevna Zamiatnina in February 1880, with whom he had two children: daughter Sophia (1883-1907) and son Konstantin (1887-1940).

But the marriage fell apart by 1891: “according to contemporaries, Konstantin Ferdinandovich, constantly immersed in the world of figures, was a man “not of this world”, and Baroness von Taube, deprived of her husband’s attention, preferred a more promising party: the chamberlain and diplomat Mikhail Nikolaevich Girs, son of the Minister of Foreign Affairs” (Rossiiskii).

Taube obviously kept the book, since he later inscribed it to his only son, in a more current handwriting on the next leaf, as a coming-of-age present: “To my dear son Konstantin from the strongly loving father K. Taube. St. Petersburg. 27.III.1905”. At some point, maybe pretty early on, the first inscription to Konstantin’s mother was taped up on the upper pastedown; it has been discovered recently thanks to the light ink marks visible on the leaf verso.

Baron von Taube was a diplomat, cryptographer and a head of the cipher department of the Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs up until the October Revolution. His son Konstantin Konstantinovich graduated in 1908 from the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo (the alma mater of his father and Russia’s famous poet Aleksandr Pushkin) and was recruited to the Foreign Ministry with the rank of titular counsellor. He graduated from the Paris School of Political Science in 1911 and worked at Russian diplomatic missions in Bucharest and Athens. During World War I, he served as second secretary of the mission in Tehran. In 1918, Taube moved in with his mother and stepfather in Rome and then worked in anti-Bolshevik diplomatic structures in Paris and Bern.

Baron von Taube translated here a successful German work, “Das Europäische Völkerrecht der Gegenwart”, written by the German legal scholar, judge, and reformist legislator August Wilhelm Heffter (1796-1880). Published in 1844 and going through many editions in various languages in the next decades, Hefter’s book discusses major fundamental terms and concepts of the subject.

Interestingly, Taube worked on the project with Friedrich Martens (1845-1909), a professor of St. Petersburg University and noted legal scholar, whom added a preface, comments and modifications. This edition also integrates a short introduction of the 83-y. old Heffter, with a letter to Taube.

Rare: we could not trace any other example going through the market in recent years. Worldcat locates holdings only at Harvard, Berkeley and University of Minnesota, to which we can add a copy at RGB (Moscow).


Maria Nikolaevna Zamiatnina-Taube (translator’s inscription to first flyleaf in purple and black ink); her son Baron Konstantin Konstantinovich von Taube (translator’s inscription to second (added?) flyleaf).


Mikhail Rossiiskii, “Kto vy, Baron Taube?”, Skopinskii vestnik, #29, 2019.

Item number



Physical Description

Large 8vo. Title, dedication leaf, XVI, IX t.o.c., 453 and 133 pp., errata leaf.


Contemporary Russian dark green roan spine with raised bands, gilt fillets and direct gilt lettering, green pebble-grained cloth boards with blind-stamped framin fillets.


Spine with minor scratched, its head a tiny bit restored, a couple of corners lightly bumped; first fly-leaf with glue marks around the edges, text blank margins a bit browned; overall a touching copy in fine, pleasant condition.

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