In his self-published volumes from 1685 to 1719, Leeuwenhoek used and re-used three frontispieces and a portrait. The original drawings (and perhaps the copper plates) were done by four artists who at the time were well known and thus probably expensive: Romein de Hooghe, Jan Verkolje, Abraham de Blois, and Jan Goeree.

  • De Hooghe made one of these images, dated 1685, and may have made the other one.
  • De Blois made the full-page portrait after a print by Verkolje about the same time.
  • Goeree made the image with the inset portrait, probably in 1707.

Leeuwenhoek reused all of these prints, making the changes noted below.

De Hooghe Artemis print

On the top part of the left sidebar are four versions of the print that de Hooghe signed and dated 1685. Its dominant feature is the Artemis (or Diana) of Ephesus. She sits on a throne with a pedestal that has space for text. The lower pedestal also has space for text. The variations are marked by the text in those spaces; the image is otherwise unchanged.

In 1686, Boutesteyn printed Levende Dierkens (Dobell 8: Letters 28-31 and 34-36) and used the print for the frontis. It has "door / Antoni van Leeuwenhoek" at the bottom and "Ondeckte / Onstigbaar / Heeden" on the pedestal.

In 1687, Boutesteyn printed Anatomia Seu interiora Rerum, Cum Animatarum tum Inanimarum [sic], Ope & nebeficio [sic] exquisitissimorum Microscopiorum Detecta (Dobell 22: same letters as Levende Dierkens plus Letters 38 and 42 through 52). The volume has two misspellings in the title. Later in 1687 (and probably in 1685) and , Boutesteyn printed a corrected version, which Dobell numbered 23. All of them have the Artemis frontis with Epistolae / Antonii a Leeuwenhoek at the bottom and a blank pedestal. On the bottom, everything is the same except "door" is "Epistolae" and "van" is "i a".

Ten years later, in 1696, Boutesteyn again printed the same letters but with a different title: Arcana Naturae Ope & beneficio exquisitissimorum Microscopiorum Detecta (not in Dobell). [Note: This title (but not the contents) is similar to the 1695 publication of a different set of letters with an uncharacteristically short three-word title: Arcana Naturae Detecta.] This time, the Artemis frontis has Boutesteyn's name and the year at the bottom. On the upper pedestal: "A. a Leeuwenhoek / Investigatio / Arcanorum."?? Add to sidebar!

In 1708, Boutesteyn used this print one more time for Arcana Naturae Ope & beneficio exquisitissimorum Microscopiorum Detecta, what he called the editio tertio, the re-titled version of Dobell 22 Anatomia Seu interiora Rerum. It has the Artemis print with "Boutesteyn 1696" at the bottom and "A. v. Leeuwenhoek / Ondekte Onsigtbaarheden" on the pedestal. In other words, he did not change the year but he changed the text on the pedestal from Latin to Dutch -- for a Latin-language publication! He also changed the pedestal to tidy some of the earlier messiness, and add a bottom rule and shading.

In 1722, Leeuwenhoek made one final use of the Artemis print. Johan Arnold Langerak used it as the frontis for the first part the Opera omnia: Arcana Naturae, ope Exactissimorum Microscopiorum Detectamicroscopiorum. At the bottom, he put his own name and on the pedestal: A. v. Leeuwenhoek / Investigatio / Arcanorum.

Eye of Providence print

The dominant image in the other print is the Eye of Providence. Leeuwenhoek used this print three times. Unlike the Artemis print discussed above, which has de Hooghe's name and 1685, the year it was made, this Eye of Providence print has no such markings. The only reference to it is in Harting's bibliography (18??, p. 134) in his listing 91 describing the Vijfde vervolg der Brieven: in koper gesneden allegorisch titel-gravure van T. van Schaak (copper engraved allegorical title-print of T. van Schaak).

I can find no record in the archives of Delft or the other cities of the Dutch Republic of an artist named Schaak to whom Harting is referring. Suggestions welcome!

Peter Rabus describes this print in the front matter in ?? (translation from Stein 1931).

The Specter of Philosophy, Queen of Science, standing behind the table, is disclosing Nature, formerly concealed but now revealed. Sagacious Investigation, upon whose temples are wings and who is clothed with a robe covered with eyes, has before her the different products of Nature, which she is examining with a microscope made by Van Leeuwenhoek, in order to search out how the products are begotten and born. This microscope is furnished with a reflector. Standing behind Investigation, in the right background, is Diligence, always active. Diligence is guiding Error. Error is represented as a poor one-legged man, whose eyes are bandaged and whose face is disfigured by the ears of an ass. Error is resisting Diligence.

Three men are seen in the right foreground who pride themselves upon being philosophers: the first, (kneeling behind Investigation) a superstitious Jew; the second, (standing) a Christian, not less credulous, and the third (at left of the Christian), a Heathen, from the school of Aristotle who carries hidden qualities on his shoulders. The three have not been able to raise themselves to the place where stands Truth, who has no need of seduction an who is crushing horrent Envy under his feet. The Light Divine falls from Heaven and shines upon the microscope of Van Leeuwenhoek.

In 1695, Leeuwenhoek had his next-door neighbor, the printer Henrik Crooneveld, add the print as the frontispiece to Arcana Naturae (Dobell 25), his largest publication to date, by far: 38 letters. In a thin ruled rectangle along the bottom is "Delphis Batavorum apud Henricum Crooneveld M DC XCV". The figure holding the sun on the lower left has a banner slung across her waist: "Arcana Naturae detecta ab Antonio van Leeuwenhoek"

The following year, 1696, Leeuwenhoek had Crooneveld use the print again. The Vijfde Vervolg der Brieven (Dobell 15) has the same Eye of Providence print, but he couldn't use the Latin or the same year, of course. They were changed to "Delph by Henrik van Crooneveld M DC XCVI" along the bottom and "Vijfde vervolg der Brieven van Antoni van Leeuwenhoek" on the banner in the lower left.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the copper plates were made in that order. Comparing the images, however, makes it clear. At the bottom, the space between Delph and Croon is the same on both. However, on the Latin version, the rest of the spacing is balanced. On the Dutch version, there were not as many letters and they are spaced awkwardly. On the banner, the O at the end of fifth line fits the space in the Latin versio. On the Dutch version, without the O, the blank space is not balanced.

In 1722, Johan Langerak retranslated the Latin version for the Opera Omnia, calling it "Editio novissima, auctior et correctior". He re-used the print but he, too, changed the text. At the bottom, he hatched out all the words. On the banner, the Latin words are the same "Arcana Naturae detecta ab Antonio van Leeuwenhoek". Close examination shows enough differences to make me think that this is a fresh title, down to Antonio, where he added the final O.

In this edition, Leeuwenhoek also left out the Verkolje print that had been included in the earlier editions of both Arcana Naturae and Vijfde Vervolg. Perhaps he thought a forty-year-old image of himself was inappropriate.

Verkolje/de Blois portrait print

Vervolg der Brieven printed by Boutesteyn in 1704 (Dobell 10b) has Abraham de Blois's line engraving after the Jan Verkolje mezzotint engraving based on the oil portrait Verkolje made in 1685. Dobell writes (1932, p. 349):

All the well-known engraved portraits of Leeuwenhoek are derived from Verkolje's oil-painting. The best-known, and most often reproduced, is the excellent copperplate engraving by A. de Blois prefixed to the Dutch and Latin collective works (Brieven and Opera Omnia). ... Various copies of this copy have also been made—in line, stipple, mezzotint, and by modern photographic processes.

During his lifetime, Leeuwenhoek used this portrait three times.

  • It first appeared in 1687 as a frontispiece to the Vervolg der Brieven (1687), with a Dutch inscription: Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Lid van de Koninglyjke Societat tot London.
  • In 1695, it was the frontispiece for Arcana Naturae Detecta with Latin lettering: Antonius a Leeuwenhoek. Regia Societatis Londinensis membrum.
  • Finally, in 1722, he reused the same Latin frontis for the first volume of the Opera Omnia, seu Arcana Naturae, ope Exactissimorum Microscopiorum Detecta. All three have "J. Verkolje" on the bottom left and "A. de Blois" on the bottom right.

Goeree portrait inset print

Send-Brieven printed in 1718 and Epistolae Physiologicae printed in 1719, both by Jan Beman, have Jan Goeree's engraving with a portrait of Leeuwenhoek inset. In the center, the seated woman is pointing out something hidden from the viewer deep under a cloth.

According to Dobell, p. 355, the engraving may date from 1707. The next new volume that Leeuwenhoek published after that was the Send-Brieven in 1718, which is when he used Goeree's image.

The artist's signature bottom left remained the same as did the Latin name, place, and date of birth around the inset portrait -- "ANTONIVS LEEUWENHOEKIVS DELPHIS NATVS MDCXXXII".

The words on the bottom changed from "Te DELFT by ADRIAAN BEMAN, 1718" to "DELPHIS apud ADEIANUM BEMAN, 1719."

See more images by these artists: