In collections before 1875

Leeuwenhoek microscopes mentioned in Dutch collections up until the 1875 celebrations in Delft


To Huib Zuidervaart of the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam, for his relentless research. Special thanks to Tiemen Cocquyt of the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, for some additions to this list.

The 1875 celebration of Leeuwenhoek’s achievements sparked the production of copies of the Leeuwenhoek microscopes. Thus, only those mentioned before 1875 can be marked as genuine without doubt. Below we present a list of those mentioned in auction catalogues and some other sources. Most auction catalogues mentioned can be found with the help of the website, which presents an index to the microfiches of the Book Sales Catalogues of the Dutch Republic, 1599-1800.

At the end of these book catalogues a collection of ‘rarities’ is often offered, sold together with the library of the former owner. In this section of the catalogues small collections of scientific instruments can also be found, forming the basis of the list below.

In a private collection before 1875

This survey of preserved auction catalogues was first published in Zuidervaart and Anderson's "Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes and other scientific instruments: new information from the Delft archives" (2016). The survey was performed in the course of Dr. Huib Zuidervaart's wider investigation of Dutch collections of scientific instruments, "Cabinets for Experimental Philosophy in the Netherlands" (2013). Dr. Zuidervaart's findings about Leeuwenhoek's microscopes:

1754: Jan Arnold Van Orsoy († 1753)

Merchant in Amsterdam.

4 zilveren en 1 kopere microscoop door den Heer Leeuwenhoek geïnventeerd en gemaakt met glaasjes

Four sold to Jongerheld and one to Tilenburg.

1765: Abraham Edens (c. 1690–1765)

Retired merchant from Rotterdam with English roots. As a young man in 1723, he presented a box with 26 Leeuwenhoek microscopes to the Royal Society at the request of Leeuwenhoek's daughter Maria. He moved in 1746 to Warmond, where he had a large cabinet of experimental philosophy. He attended the auction in 1747 and bought 8 lots, only some of which remained at his death in 1765.

3 microscopia & 8 glaazen, door Leuwenhoek

1785: Aron De Joseph De Pinto (1710–1758)

Merchant in Amsterdam.

Een zak microscoop volgens Leeuwenhoek

Bought by C. v.d. Velden for 3 guilders.

1785: Martinus Wilhelmus Schwencke (1706–1785)

Professor of botany and a physician in The Hague.

1 microscoop van Leeuwenhoek

1790: Jacob F. Van Beymont († 1789)

Former mayor of The Hague.

Twee zilvere microscoopjes door A. Leeuwenhoek in een koper doosje

1793: Johannes Oosterdijk Schacht (1704–1792)

Professor of philosophy and medicine at the universities of Franeker and Utrecht.

2 Leeuwenhoek microscopen

1796: Pierre Lyonet (1706–1789)

Code breaker of the States General and a renowned microscopist in The Hague. Portrait on right; click to enlarge.

Een echt microscoop van Leeuwenhoek, geheel van zilver (a real Leeuwenhoek microscope, entirely of silver)

1800: Arnout Vosmaer (1720–1799)

Director of the cabinets of natural history and experimental philosophy of the Dutch Stadtholder, The Hague.

Vyf enkelde Microscoopen, en een dubbeld, waar van de glaasjes in zilvere plaatjes ingevat zyn, zynde deeze door den beroemden Leeuwenhoek zelfs gemaakt, en een gedeelten dier geenen, met welke hy zyne verwonderende ontdekkingen gemaakt heeft (Five single microscopes, and one double, the little glass lenses of which are set in silver plates, these being made by the famous Leeuwenhoek himself, and one with animal parts, with which he has made his astonishing discoveries)

This lot of five single microscopes and one double microscope sold for 1.50 guilders.

1800: Anonymous

Auction Thierry & Mensing, The Hague

Een handmicroscoop van Leeuwenhoek (a Leeuwenhoek hand microscope)

1806: Eil(h)ardus Wilhelmus Uchtman(n) († 1805)

Lawyer in Groningen.

Een zilveren Mikroskoop van Leeuwenhoek, in een koperen kokertje (a silver Leeuwenhoek microscope, in a little brass case)

1806: Frederik George Alsche (1768–1805)

Hoofdschout (head sheriff) of The Hague, co-founder of the Society Diligentia in The Hague.

Een zilver microscoopje van Leeuwenhoek (a silver Leeuwenhoek microscope)

1809: Johannes Jacobus Serrurier (c. 1724–1804) [?]

Protestant minister in The Hague.

Een fraay microscoop van Leeuwenhoek, dienende voor dubbeld en enkeld zak microscoop en voor door- en ondoorschijnende voorwerpen, met twaalf differente vermogens, leggende in een zwart chagrijn kistje (A fine Leeuwenhoek microscope, used for doubled and single pocket microscope and for transpatent and opaque objects with twelve differente powers, lying in a black shagreen case. Note: shagreen in rough untanned leather)

1817: Alexander Hendrik Metelerkamp (1744–1816)

Former mayor of Gouda or Daniel Albert Reguleth (1749–1794), Calvinist minister in The Hague, no. 149.

Microscoop van Leeuwenhoek, in twee doosjes en een ander (Leeuwenhoek microscope, in two little boxes and another)

1818: Anonymous

J.A.J. Carré auctioneer, The Hague), no. 87 

Een zeer fraaie zakmicroscoop met 5 [sic!] vergrootingen, in een kistje, door Leeuwenhoek (a very fine pocket microscope with 5 powers of magnification, in a little case, by Leeuwenhoek)

1820: Anonymous

A.H. Bakhuyzen auctioneer, The Hague), no. 50

Een zakmicroscoopje van Leeuwenhoek, in een doosje (a Leeuwenhoek pocket microscope)

1823: Pieter Van Buren (1741–1822)

Former secretary of the States of Holland in The Hague.

Een handmicroscoopje, met een glas van den beroemde Leeuwenhoek (a hand microscope, with a lens from the famous Leeuwenhoek)

Bought by the dealer J. Regenbogen, 2 guilders.

1823: Isaac van Haastert

Haastert was born in Delft in November 1753. He was a painter and art teacher there, a member of the ‘Kunstliefde spaart geen Vlijt’ and the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde as well as headman of the St. Lucas guild of painters. In contract to the previous century, Holland's Golden Age, Haastert was one of the few fine artists in the guild by that time. Haastert specialized in landscapes and in views of villages. His work can be seen in Delft city archive and in the Prinsenhof museum.

Below right are two optical prints he made. The first shows Delft's Nieuwe Kerk and, on the right, the windows of the Stadhuis where Leeuwenhoek worked as a city official. The second shows Delft's Ammunitie Magazijn where the city's two main grachten join in the south, the Oude Delft gracht on the left and the Nieuwe Delft gracht on the right. Haastert died in Delft on March 1, 1834.

A microscope (no. 126, from the auction of 1747?) was illustrated (right; click to enlarge) on the title page of his 1823 book, Anth. van Leeuwenhoek, vereerend herdacht in eene korte levensschets en lofdicht.

1832: Pieter De Riemer (1769–1831)

Professor of medicine in The Hague (no. 103). The microscope was bought by Van der Hoek for 2.50 guilders.

Een zilver handmicroscoopje van Leeuwenhoek (a silver Leeuwenhoek hand microscope)

1838: Jan Jacob Cau (1750–1836)

‘Heer van Stellendam, Hoofdingeland van Rijnland’ in The Hague.

Twee Hand-Microscopen, volgens Leeuwenhoek, in een doosje (two hand microscopes, by Leeuwenhoek, in a small box)

1847: Cornelius Anthonius Geisweit Van Der Netten (1771–1847)

Retired major-general, living in Delft. This microscope was perhaps identical to one of the silver microscopes bought in 1747 by Nicolaas Snip, who was married to Anna Geisweit.

Een zilveren Mikroskoopje van Leeuwenhoek (a silver microscope of Leeuwenhoek)

1859: Robert Thomas Maitland (1823–1904)

Zoologist in Amsterdam and The Hague. The 69x silver microscope (see the right sidebar) has a Dutch silver hallmark that proves that this microscope was sold at auction between 1814 and 1831. It was bought by Maitland at an auction in Leiden around 1850. It was mentioned in a letter from Maitland, dated June 1875 in the archives of the Nederlandsche Dierkundige Vereeniging (no. 82a), cited by Van Zuylen, "On the microscopes", p. 169.

In 1859, Harting investigated its provenance. It was exhibited in 1875 (Lijst no. 62) and then sold in 1881 together with Maitland’s Iconographia Zoologica to the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. It was acquired under questionable circumstances by an employee of Artis in the late 1970s. In 2009, it was sold at auction by Christie's in London. Its present location is unknown.

1871: Henricus Carel Hallegraef († 1873)

Medical doctor from Harderwijk. He had a brass Leeuwenhoek microscope, a Leeuwenhoek loupe, and an aquatic microscope with a set of five separate lenses, described in 1875 by Haaxman. According to a family tradition these instruments were a gift from David de Gorter († Zutphen, 1783), former professor of medicine in Harderwijk, to one of Hallegraef’s ancestors, probably his greatgrandfather Michiel Jolijn, an apothecary in Zutphen. The aquatic microscope and the set of lenses were exhibited in 1875 and were probably made by the Musschenbroek workshop (Lijst nos. 57 & 58).

In an institutional collection before 1875

1815: Society Diligentia, The Hague

Een klein zilveren Hand-microscoopje van Leeuwenhoek, in een doosje (a small silver hand microscope by Leeuwenhoek)

This microscope was probably bought at the auction of the society’s co-founder F.G. Alsche. It was sold in 1839 with 200 other instruments to A. van Emden, Amsterdam. For more, see Naamlijst & beschrijving der natuurkundige werktuigen behorende aan de maatschappij Diligentia in Den Haag, opgemaakt in het jaar 1815, "N. Licht en Gezichtskunde", no 24. Manuscript, Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. Cf. Peter Wisse, "The Philosophical Society Diligentia [The Hague] and its instrument collection", Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 64 (2000), pp. 3–8.

See also Haaxman's Leeuwenhoek: Ontdekker der Infusorien, p. 35 and M. Mendel-Roessel's "De vijzel van stadsapotheker Arnold Francken, 1683–1983", Oud-Zutphen, Tijdschrift Van De Historische Vereniging Zutphen 2:4 (1983) 73–7.

1846: Musée De L’industrie, Brussels

"Quatre microscopes de Leeuwenhoek, dont deux monté en argent, et les deux autres monter en laiton. Dans deux boites recouvertes en cuir de Russie"

For more, see N.E. Mailly's Catalogue des collections du musée de l’industrie (Bruxelles, 1846), nr. 1475. The Musée de l’industrie was founded in 1826 and was dissolved after 1861. The first director of this museum was Jan Hendrik Onderdewyngaard Canzius (1771–1838). The two silver microscopes may be those bought at the 1747 auction by his grandfather Petrus Onderdewyngaart.

1850: Utrecht University

This microscope is mentioned by Harting in the third volume of his Het Microscoop (1850), p. 43. It was exhibited at the 1875 rembrance of Leeuwenhoek's accomplishments (Lijst no. 60).

1872: Leiden University

The university received from H.C. Hallegraef († 1873) a brass Leeuwenhoek microscope, a Leeuwenhoek loupe, and an aquatic microscope with a set of five separate lenses, described in 1875 by Haaxman.  See above list for 1871. The aquatic microscope and the set of lenses were exhibited in 1875 and were probably made by the Musschenbroek workshop (Lijst nos. 57 & 58).

However, today the brass Leeuwenhoek microscope and the loupe are missing. Already in 1875 the attribution to Leeuwenhoek of the aquatic microscope and the set of lenses was considered doubtful. For more, see Van Seters's "Leeuwenhoecks microscopen", pp. 4579–80 and Marian Fournier's Early Microscopes, pp. 23–4.

1872: The Municipal Museum, Gouda

The museum received a silver microscope (with a silver hallmark obtained between 1814 and 1831) from the apothecary Andrinus Antonie Gijsbertus Van Iterson (1803–1897), director and founder of a stearine candle factory in Gouda. He had acquired this instrument in the Geisweit Van Der Netten auction. It is mentioned in a letter, dated 17 July 1875 in the archives of the Nederlandsche Dierkundige Vereeniging, cited by Van Zuylen, "On the microscopes", p. 168. It was exhibited in 1875 (Lijst no. 56). For more, see Marian Fournier's Early Microscopes, p. 21 and Brian Ford's Leeuwenhoek Legacy, pp. 137, 157.

1875: Leiden University

The 1875 exhibition showed a silver microscope, on loan from the Leiden anatomical cabinet by Johannes Adrianus Boogaard (1823–1877), professor of anatomy. (Lijst no. 55 – since missing).