The standard biography, by Clifford Dobell, an English microbiologist, was reprinted by Dover in 1960 in paperback, the form in which it is most accessible.
Dobell, Clifford. Antony van Leeuwenhoek and his "Little animals": Being some account of the father of protozoology & bacteriology and his multifarious discoveries in these disciplines. London: Constable and Company Limited, 1932.
Dobell sorted through the meager evidence and the historical exaggerations to carefully state what we know about van Leeuwenhoek's life. He identifies the modern scientific names for van Leeuwenhoek's animalcules. He pays hardly any attention to the multitude of van Leeuwenhoek's observations in areas other than protozoology and bacteriology.
Since Dobell, the greatest contribution to van Leeuwenhoek studies was made by Brian J. Ford, another English scientist.
Ford, Brian J. The Leeuwenhoek Legacy. Bristol and London: Biopress and Farrand Press, 1991.
Ford had the good fortune of getting permission to study actual specimens that van Leeuwenhoek sent with some of his letters and were still in the Royal Society's archives, untouched for 300 years. Ford used them and the authentic van Leeuwenhoek magnifying glass in Utrecht to definitively answer a question that many historians, though not Dobell, answered in the negative.
Yes, van Leeuwenhoek's single lenses and well-prepared specimens would have let him see with a magnification (up to 300 times) and a resolution (down to 1 micron) sufficient to make the discoveries that he claimed. It took a hundred and fifty years for the scientific establishment to catch up to him by using double- and triple-lens microscopic systems.
This book also catalogues the relevant details about all the surviving van Leeuwenhoek microscopes and lenses. Ford also wrote about the microscopes themselves.
Ford, Brian. Single Lens: The Story of the Simple Microscope. Harpercollins (February 1985)
Other biographies draw heavily on Dobell and put van Leeuwenhoek into scientific and historical context.
Palm, L. C. and H. A. M. Snelders, eds. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, 1632–1723: studies on the life and work of the Delft scientist commemorating the 350th anniversary of his birthday. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982.
Ruestow, Edward G. The
Microscope in the Dutch Republic:
The Shaping of
Discovery. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Schierbeek, Abraham. Measuring the invisible world: the life and works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek FRS. With a biographical chapter by Maria Rooseboom. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1959.
Only one serious biography was published pre-Dobell.
Haaxman, P.J. 1875 Antony van Leeuwenhoek, De Ontdekker der Infusorien. Leiden, van Doesburg, 1875.
The subtitle translates as The Discoverer of Infusoria. It is available in the original Dutch only at Archive.org.
History of Science
The beginning of science in the Netherlands is well-covered in the first half of this very helpful book, much of which you can read online at Google Books.
Berkel, K. van, A. van Helden, and L. Palm, eds. A History of Science in The Netherlands. Survey, Themes and Reference. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Learning more about van Leeuwenhoek has led me to many other areas of study: microbiology, optics, and scientific instrumentation, especially lens grinding. For my purposes, the public internet has most of the information I need. However, some older print articles are not available, and I had to get them through inter-library loan.
Bedini, Silvio A. "Lens making for scientific instrumentation in the seventeenth century." Applied Optics 5 (1966).
Bedini, Silvio A. "An Early Optical Lens-Grinding Lathe." Technology and Culture 8.1 (Jan. 1967): 74-77.
Willach, Rolf. "The development of lens grinding and polishing techniques in the first half of the 17th century." Bulletin van de Scientific Instrument Society 68 (2003).
There is no surviving portrait of Robert Hooke.
Dobell minimized Robert Hooke's influence on van Leeuwenhoek. Recently, Brian Ford and Howard Gest have emphasized that connection, reminding us that van Leeuwenhoek did not work in isolation. He was an active participant in the transition to what we now know as the scientific process. In this case, van Leeuwenhoek and Hooke repeated and validated each other's work: replication and peer review.
Learn more on the "No Longer Any Doubt" page.
Gest, Howard. The Discovery Of Microorganisms By Robert Hooke And Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, Fellows Of The Royal Society. Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 58 (2), 187–201 (2004). pdf
Van Leeuwenhoek's first letter to the Royal Society repeats Hooke's observations, published several years earlier in his masterpiece and best-selling work, Micrographia.
The complete text and images of this beautiful, groundbreaking work, popular in its own time, is available online at Project Gutenberg.
Hooke, Robert. Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses. London: Royal Society, 1665.
In return, several years later, Hooke confirmed and commented on some of van Leeuwenhoek's observations. He published both van Leeuwenhoek's letters and his response in part II: Microscopium in Lectures and Collections(1678) which temporarily replaced Philosophical Transactions after Oldenburg's death.
Hooke, Robert. Lectures and Collections. London, Printed for J. Martyn, 1678.
In 2006, a long-lost notebook by Hooke was found. Called the Hooke Folio (because of its size), it has been beautiful digitized and made searchable through the power of Flash.
Making your own single-lens microscope
Much of the attraction of van Leeuwenhoek centers around his magnifying glasses, the lenses and the hardware that holds them. Because of their simplicity compared to compound microscopes with lens systems, magnifying glasses using van Leeuwenhoek's design can be constructed with common tools and inexpensive materials.
Exploring The Possibilities Of Single Lens Microscopes (September 2005)
The Challenge Of Grinding Lenses For Single Lens Microscopes (January 2006)
A Novel Method For Making Miniature Lenses (May 2007)
Hans Loncke has also published several articles in the same magazine.
Making a Van Leeuwenhoek Microscope Lens (April 2007)
Van Leeuwenhoek as the founder of ...
Recently, Frank Egerton put van Leeuwenhoek into a scientific context in a series of articles. His earlier article about animal demography goes into detail about van Leeuwenhoek's attempts to count the number of animalcules he was seeing.
Egerton, F. N. 2005a. A history of the ecological sciences, part 16: Robert Hooke and The Royal Society of London. ESA Bulletin 86:93-101. pdf
Egerton, F. N. 2005b. A history of the ecological sciences, part 17: invertebrate zoology and parasitology during the 1600s. ESA Bulletin 86:133-144. pdf
Egerton, F. N. 2006. A history of the ecological sciences, part 19: Leeuwenhoek’s Microscopic Natural History. ESA Bulletin 87:47-58. pdf
Egerton, F. N. 1967. Leeuwenhoek as a founder of animal demography. Journal of the History of Biology 1:1-22.
Blogs that discuss van Leeuwenhoek at least part of the time.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Centraal - On the Science and Scientists of The Netherlands’ Golden Age.
kvond's Spinoza blog has a thoughtful article about Van Leeuwenhoek’s View of Technology and Spinoza as well as information about lens grinding.
Google Blog search for van Leeuwenhoek, sorted by relevance.
In a little more than a decade, an enormous amount of material related to van Leeuwenhoek has become available online. I have no doubt that the rest -- including all the print-only resources here -- are headed that way.
This page annotates only the resources that I found helpful for this project, and makes no attempt to be exhaustive. It also concentrates on secondary sources in English. The University of Leiden's catalog lists 282 results for "Leeuwenhoek, Antoni van", most in the Boerhaave Museum's library. More than half are in Dutch, and are generally not included in this bibliography.
A hundred years ago, leading to the 300th anniversaries of van Leeuwenhoek's birth and death years, there was a flurry of interest in van Leeuwenhoek in the Netherlands, at least as indicated by the large number of Dutch-language entries for the 1920's and 1930's in the University of Leiden's catalog.
I spent many hours searching the web for all things Leeuwenhoek, and I believe that I found everything of value. However, in the course of understanding van Leeuwenhoek, I also had to understand a variety of other subjects. For a quick glance at these subjects, the web is fast and full of interesting information.
By van Leeuwenhoek
The letters in English
Leeuwenhoek, A. van. Collected letters / Alle de Brieven. Edited and annotated by a committee of Dutch scientists. 15 Volumes. Amsterdam and Lisse: Swets and Zeitlinger, 1939–1999.
Of the Collected letters / Alle de Brieven, volume XIV published in 1996 and containing 21 letters between August 2, 1701, and March 21, 1704, is available in part on Google Books.
You will find much more information on the Publications page.
The letters in Dutch
As discussed on the Publications page, van Leeuwenhoek had 165 of his letters printed in separate Dutch and Latin editions between 1684 and 1718, about half of what he wrote. Cole lists a total of 285 letters as having been written and eventually published. In addition, the first 14 volumes of Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters has about 250 letters, so it seems certain that well over three hundred letters will eventually be in the complete set.
Over forty years, Van Leeuwenhoek had these 165 letters printed in 9 pamphlets, 8 small volumes, and finally the four-part Brieven, which bound together the pamphlets and small volumes, unfortunately, without a consistent renumbering of pages. If the page numbering weren't confusing enough, van Leeuwenhoek used his own numbering system for the letters themselves, starting with 28 instead of 1 and including forty-six letters numbered in Latin, from I to XLVI.
The seven periods of van Leeuwenhoek's' publishing history with the Royal Society, as detailed on the Letters page, was determined by who was the editor of Philosophical Transactions. Van Leeuwenhoek's Dutch publications, while perhaps stimulated by the editorial changes in London, break into different periods, as on the table below.
Technical University Delft has digitized all four volumes of the Brieven in its Tresor (Treasure) collection -- a worthy project for which I thank them. Printing processes in the late 17th century did not produce a sufficiently uniform type for scanning, so the pages are all .png files. They are completely readable by humans, but the character-recognition function in Adobe Acrobat produces mostly nonsense. I found it easier to type it myself than to correct Acrobat's output.
If you explore the Tresor collection, it may help to note (as of July 2009):
Tresor's Deel 1 (part 1) is van Leeuwenhoek's Deel 1.
For Deel 2, there seems to have been some confusion about the numbering system. They changed the Latin to Arabic, and then put van Leeuwenhoek's Deel 4, which begins with the Latin I, as Deel 2, and numbered the letters in Arabic, 1 through 46.
Tresor's Deel 3 is the same as van Leeuwenhoek's Deel 2, and they continue with Arabic 53.
For Deel 4, the table of contents for the Tresor project on the left lists no letters, only geen index, no index. However, if you just keep clicking, you'll find all of van Leeuwenhoek's Deel 3.
These letters are all in Dutch. Most of them were never published in Philosophical Transactions. Indeed, the letters in van Leeuwenhoek's Deel 4 (TU Delft's Deel 2 with the Latin numbering converted to Arabic) are in volumes of Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters that have yet to be published. Thus, any English translations are scattered in pieces throughout articles discussing other subjects.
In any event, the TU Delft Tresor collection has all the plates that van Leeuwenhoek had printed, and these illustrations need no translation. They are different from the plates illustrating the articles in Philosophical Transactions, though some have clearly been made from the same original drawings that van Leeuwenhoek commissioned from anonymous draughtsmen.
Beginning on the Period 6 page, I translated van Leeuwenhoek's inhoudsopgaven, summaries of contents, for the half of the letters in Send-Brieven / Epistles, deel 4 (TU Delft's deel 2) that also have illustrations.
Other sources of letters in English
Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions
The complete run of Philosophical Transactions is available at the Royal Society Publishing's online archive. Until spring 2009, the complete archive was open: available for unlimited downloading by anyone. Now, it is behind a paywall. However, the complete tables of contents of the Philosophical Transactions as originally published are still freely available there.
A complete set of all the articles in the first 56 volumes (except vols. 38 - 46) of Philosophical Transactions, including all the articles by van Leeuwenhoek, is available from WikiMedia Commons: Category: The Royal Society Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), which "rescued the public domain content" while it was still freely available.
Here are the citations for van Leeuwenhoek's first and last articles in the Philosophical Transactions, spanning fifty years from volume 8 to volume 32 and omitting only volumes 16 and 30, when Edmond Halley, the astronomer, edited the journal.
M. Leewenhoeck and Regnerus de Graaf. A Specimen of Some Observations Made by a Microscope, Contrived by M. Leewenhoeck in Holland, Lately Communicated by Dr. Regnerus de Graaf. Phil. Trans. January 1, 1673 8:6037-6038.
Antonij a Leeuwenhoek. De Globulis in Sanguine & in Vini Faecibus. Epistola Posthuma Domini Antonij a Leeuwenhoek, Societatis Regiae Londinensis, Dum Viveret, Sodalis Dignissimi, ad Jacobum Jurin, R. S. Secr. Phil. Trans. 1722 32:436-437.
While the Transactions went through a five-year period of re-organization, as discussed on the Period 2 page, Robert Hooke published two van Leeuwenhoek letters, with his commentary, in a book in 1678. Over the next few years, he published five other letters in a short-lived journal, Philosophical Collections.
Hooke, Robert. Lectures and collections: Cometa, Microscopium. London, Printed for J. Martyn, 1678.
Hooke, Robert. Philosophical collections: Numbers 1-7. London 1679-1682. New York: Johnson Reprint, 1965.
Hoole's Select Works
Eighty years after van Leeuwenhoek's death, Samuel Hoole translated, selected, and arranged some of van Leeuwenhoek's letters by topic without reference to the original sequencing.
Hoole, S. The Select Works of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, containing his Miscrosopical [sic] Discoveries in many of the Works of Nature. 2 vols. London: G. Sidney, 1800; reprint New York: Arno Press, 1977.
According to Cole, Hoole included, for the letters from:
1673 - 1680 - none of them
With the Royal Society's archive behind a paywall and Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters being rare, expensive, and incomplete, Hoole remains the most easily accessible collection of van Leeuwenhoek's letters in English. Both volume I and volume II are available to download as .pdf or text files at Archive.org. The text is complete but the plates were not all scanned, which makes it hard to visualize.
About the letters
In addition to the letters themselves, the books and articles below are the major sources I used for the discussion on the Letters page. I discuss some of them in more detail on the Publications page.
In 1756, Thomas Birch published his four-volume History of the Royal Society of London in four volumes from its beginning in 1660 through 1687. It can be downloaded from Google Books. Van Leeuwenhoek's contact began in 1673; Volume III documents 1672 to 1679 and Volume IV, 1679 to 1687.
Birch, Thomas. The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge, from its first rise: In which the most considerable of those papers communicated to the society, which have hitherto not been published, are inserted in their proper order, as a supplement to the Philosophical Transactions [1660-1687]. London: Millar, 1756-7 (4 vols: 512, 501, 520, 558p.). (Facsimile reprints, New York: Johnson, 1968; Bruxelles: Culture et Civilisation, 1967-8)
Maty, Paul Henry. A general index to the Philosophical transactions, from the first to the end of the seventieth volume. Royal Society, London, 1787. pdf
Sprat, Thomas. History of the Royal Society. London, 1667. Google Books
Other sources helped sort out the timeline and gaps in van Leeuwenhoek's tangled publication history.
Cole F. J. Leeuwenhoek's zoological researches. Part II. Bibliography and analytical Index. Annals of Science, Volume 2, Issue 2 April 1937, pages 185 - 235.
Hall, Marie Boas. Promoting Experimental Learning: Experiment and the Royal Society, 1660-1727. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Palm L.C., Leeuwenhoek and other Dutch Correspondents of the Royal Society. Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 43, 191-207 (1989). pdf
One final article that I found helpful for sorting out the letter chronology was published in a short-lived and now rare journal from the Vrij Universiteit van Amsterdam. The only copy I could find was at the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden.
Pas, Peter van der. Leeuwenhoeckiana. Leeuwenhoeck's Correspondence at the Royal Society. Aere Perennius, no. 18, January 1975, Amsterdam, pp. 3-11.
You can learn more about the letters and articles on the Letters page.
About van Leeuwenhoek
The most comprehensive web is Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek, maintained by Dr. Warnar A.W. Moll of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. It was a constant launch pad for my research, and I thank him.
Peter W. Pedrotti at Antonj van Leeuwenhoek "Father of Microbiology" has a terrific page of images of some of van Leeuwenhoek's animalcules made with modern microscopes and accompanied by van Leeuwenhoek's own words.
A Google search for Leeuwenhoek produces almost a million results. Narrowing the search to van Leeuwenhoek gets it down under three hundred thousand. The results include a lot of derivative repetition. The same few facts, often wrong, are repeated over and over.
These searches will also turn up several dozen more substantial articles and books on van Leeuwenhoek that have appeared in print during the past century. Many of these digitized print resources would make good introductions to the life and work of van Leeuwenhoek, but together they also become repetitious and add nothing more than you can find in Dobell, Ruestow, Schierbeek, or Ford.
The articles included below are mostly available online and all added to my understanding of van Leeuwenhoek and his accomplishments.
The online Hollandse Genealogische Databank of the Hollandse Vereniging voor Genealogie (Holland Geneological Society) has a helpful genealogy of van Leeuwenhoek's extended family with documentary references. It's in Dutch, but you can pick up a lot from the dates and cognates. The article is reprinted from the short-lived journal Kronieken published by the Genealogische Vereniging Prometheus at the Technical University in Delft.
Burg, E.W. van den and G.J. Leeuwenhoek. (Van) Leeuwenhoek. Kronieken, Genealogische Vereniging Prometheus, 1995. pdf
Much is made of van Leeuwenhoek's "secret". Yet he complained about the great numbers of people that he showed his microscopes to. He gave them as gifts. They would be easy to disassemble and replicate. Yet no one did. Perhaps his secret was patient observation, as Barnett Cohen suggests, echoing some of what Robert Hooke said at a meeting of the Royal Society in 1677.
Cohen, Barnett. On Leeuwenhoek's Method Of Seeing Bacteria. J. Bacteriol. 34 (3): 343. pdf
In van Leeuwenhoek's time, the publishing industry as we know it was just forming. Copyright was a new idea and charges of plagiarism were common. Laura Cruz's article helps us understand what it means that van Leeuwenhoek self-published his collected letters.
Cruz, Laura. The Secrets of Success: Microinventions and Bookselling in the Seventeenth-Century Netherlands. Book History, Volume 10, 2007.
Van Leeuwenhoek bequeathed to the Royal Society a box with 26 microscopes, specimens attached. In that year, Martin Folkes, a vice-president of the Society, acknowledged and described the microscopes. Seventeen years later, also in the Philosophical Transactions, Henry Baker published an analysis of the lenses as well as a discussion of how van Leeuwenhoek used them. The Folkes article is freely available from WikiMedia Commons, but the Baker article is behind the Royal Society's paywall.
Folkes, Martin. Some Account of Mr. Leeuwenhoek's Curious Microscopes, Lately Presented to the Royal Society. Phil. Trans. 1722 vol. 32 no. 380 446-453. pdf
Baker, Henry. An Account of Mr. Leeuwenhoek's Microscopes. Phil. Trans. 1739 vol. 41 no. 458 503-519. pdf
In addition to his books (see left column) and the documents and images on his web site, Brian Ford wrote two articles that add details not found elsewhere.
Ford, Brian J. The van Leeuwenhoek Specimens, Notes & Records of the Royal Society, 36 (1): 37-59, 1981. pdf
Ford, Brian J. Leeuwenhoek Bibliography, Proceedings of the Royal Microscopical Society, 19, (1): 3, January 1984.
For a 10,000-word introduction to van Leeuwenhoek's life and accomplishments, the article below lacks only more illustrations. Rupert Hall's wife and collaborator Marie Boas Hall wrote the helpful Promoting Experimental Learning: Experiment and the Royal Society, 1660-1727 mentioned above.
Hall, A.R., The Leeuwenhoek Lecture, 1988: Antoni van Leeuwenhoek 1632-1723. Notes Red. R. Soc. Lond. 43, 249-273 (1989). pdf
Dobell's biography gives scant attention to van Leeuwenhoek's teenage apprenticeship with William Davidson in Amsterdam. This article by van Seters discusses a document not available to Dobell.
Seters, W. H. van, “Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in Amsterdam”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Oct., 1951), pp. 36-45. pdf
If you are interested in purchasing one of these books, try the Bookstore.
Dutch Golden Age
The Wikipedia has a short overview of the period, which should get you started with search terms.
The Dutch knew during their Golden Age that they lived in a special time. In 1662, Pieter de la Court laid it out clearly. His analysis is available from the Liberty Fund.
Court, Pieter de la. The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland  (London: John Campbell, Esq, 1746).
I found two books especially helpful for understanding the geopolitical and economic context of the Dutch Golden Age as well as everyday life during van Leeuwenhoek's time.
De Vries, Jan, and Ad Van Der Woude. The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Zumthor, Paul. Daily Life in Rembrandt's Holland. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994.
The literature on the Dutch Golden Age, its triumphs in art, commerce, and science, is enormous. I found these books most helpful.
Cook, Harold J. Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
Deursen, A. Th. van. Plain Lives in a Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century Holland. Translated by Maarten Ultee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Frijhoff, Willem, and Marijke Spies. 1650: Hard-Won Unity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Israel, Jonathan. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
Prak, Maarten. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century: The Golden Age. Translated by Diane Webb. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Delft in the the Golden Age
The painter Jonathan Janson maintains the terrific web Essential Vermeer. It has a page on van Leeuwenhoek and many pages on the city and the times shared by the two most renowned Delftenaars of the Golden Age.
Kees Kaldenbach's multimedia encyclopedic 2000+ page web site on Johannes Vermeer & life in Delft is another source of general information about Delft in the Golden Age. His web uses frames, so I won't give direct URLs that breaks the frames. Click on the "Fly over Delft 1660 in 3D" for a bird's eye view.
Technical University Delft has digitized Reinier Boitet's 1729 update of Dirck van Bleyswyck's Beschryving der stadt Delft (Description of Delft), Dutch only.
Barrels of wine were commonly transported and imported. But no two barrels were alike, and they were not always full. So how much excise tax should be paid?
Meskins, A.D. Wine Gauging in Late 16th- and Early 17th-Century Antwerp, Historia Mathematica
The wine gauger in Delft also examined barrels of oils and fats and even dry goods. The taxes on these imports were important sources of income for cities like Delft. Meskins calls wine gaugers “true mathematicians in the 16th-century context.” He shows the arithmetic used and discusses the wine guagers' place in economic and social life.
The standard book during the period when van Leeuwenhoek would have been learning.
Johan Sems en Jan Pieterszoon Dou. Practijck des lantmetens (Leyden, 1600) - online in Dutch
On of van Leeuwenhoek's biographers has an article, in Dutch, on this topic.
Schierbeek, A. Over landmeten en wijnroeien in Leeuwenhoek's tijd. De natuur 1940, Vol. 60, No. 7 (145-148)
In van Leeuwenhoek's time, before the specialization of the sciences, it was called "natural philosophy", as in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Looking back, we can see that van Leeuwenhoek was what we call a "generalist". It would take the scientific establishment almost two centuries to develop the tools and especially the theories that would let van Leeuwenhoek's discoveries propel the scientific disciplines whose textbooks have claimed him among their founders, fathers, or forerunners (in alphabetical order): anatomy, bacteriology, biology, botany, chemistry, crystallography, embryology, histology, microbiology, pathology, physiology, protozoology, and zoology.
What little animals did van Leeuwenhoek actually see?
EDF Williams, the Finnish writer, has a YouTube channel with a terrific collection of short videos of protozoa, ciliates like Vorticella and rotifers.
Fact 1: Van Leeuwenhoek did not always need to use his most powerful lenses, but when he did, they were an order of magnitude (x250 vs x25) more powerful than the best that his contemporaries were using.
Fact 2: It took until the early 19th century for the scientific world to use microscopes that were as powerful as van Leeuwenhoek's.
How could van Leeuwenhoek be that far ahead of his time?
To answer that question, I had to learn more about optics. I found no one source or even handful of sources that I can link to. I recommend that you begin using these Wikipedia links.
Single and double lenses, even triple lenses combinations.
The goals are two-fold: magnification and resolution.
Combinations of convex lenses, concave lenses, and mirrors.
What they are, why they were so hard to overcome, and how van Leeuwenhoek did so.
Grinding techniques that work fine for spectacles to aid reading print are too crude, too scratchy, for tiny lenses. How did van Leeuwenhoek manage to make lenses that resolved so clearly?
Dr. J. van Zuylen, 'The microscopes of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek', Journal of Microscopy, Vol. 121, Pt 3, March 1981, pp. 309-328.
Bradbury, S. The Evolution of the Microscope. New York: Pergamon Press, 1967.
Cabinets of Curiosities
Roemer, van de B. Neat Nature: The Relation between Nature and Art in a Dutch Cabinet of Curiosities from the Early Eighteenth Century. History of Science, vol. 42, p.47-84. pdf