Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


UNDERSTANDING THE CISG: A Compact Guide to the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (3rd Edition). Joseph Lookofsky, Professor of Law, University of Copenhagen. Wolters Kluwer, The Netherlands (2008) xix and 181 pp, plus 47 pp Appendices and 7 pp Index. Hardback £65.
This new edition of Understanding the CISG forms a valuable addition to the series of commentaries on the Vienna Convention on the International Sale of Goods 1980 (“CISG”). It is published by one of the most prominent scholars in the field, Joseph Lookofsky. As the subtitle “third (worldwide) edition” indicates, the book is designed for use by jurists with an interest in all Contracting States. As such, it takes over where the regional editions focused at the United States, Europe and Scandinavia left off, providing a wider context to these editions and a global, more comprehensive overview of the functioning of the Convention.
Following the format of the CISG, the book works from general provisions on the applicability and scope of the Convention to its substantive rules on sales law. Chapters 1 and 2 are introductory, providing a general overview and then a closer look at the CISG’s field of application and its general provisions. Subsequent chapter headings read: sales contract formation (ch 3), obligations of the parties (ch 4), passing of risk (ch 5), remedies for breach (ch 6), agreed remedies (ch 7), CISG reservations (and other final provisions) (ch 8), and the limitation period in international sales (ch 9).
As can be seen from the titles of the chapters, the book does not adhere strictly to the order in which matters are laid down in CISG but, rather than adopting an article-by-article approach, has arranged its chapters by subject-matter. This may be regarded as a strength, as it allows for a to-the-point discussion of particular topics. For example, Chapter 6 groups together the provisions of the Convention that relate to breach and remedies for breach, laid down in Art 25 (fundamental breach), Arts 45–52 (buyer’s remedies for seller’s breach) and Arts 61–65 (seller’s remedies for buyer’s breach). An internal connection is made, this way, between the provisions of CISG that regulate a particular issue, which enables an immediate insight into the functioning of the Convention in practice. In light of the compact nature of the commentary, this approach works very well.
Of particular note, further, are the many examples added into the discussion. These make the book particularly well readable and easily accessible, also for those with little prior knowledge of CISG. For readers with existing background knowledge on the Convention, they provide a quick update on recent developments in the field of international sales. In this instance, case law from all over the world is included, thus providing a wider sample than found in the regional editions of the commentary.
All in all, Lookofsky’s book provides an excellent, compact commentary on the CISG. It should be of interest to everyone involved in international sales law, either for use as a quick reference guide or as a starting point for further research in addition to larger volumes such as the Schlechtriem/Schwender commentary (2nd English edn, OUP, 2005).
Vanessa Mak,

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