Johan Arnoldi wrote Letter L-351 to Leeuwenhoek about the pistolet that he was returning

February 1, 1699

This letter is known only by reference in other letters.

In this letter, Johan Arnoldi writes that he has been reimbursed for the pistolet he spent to get the book that Antonio Magliabechi sent to Leeuwenhoek as a gift. He is returning the pistolet that Leeuwenhoek had earlier sent as reimbursement for Arnoldi's expenses.

For an overview of the exchange of letters between Arnoldi (“the man in question, who lives in Brussels”) and Leeuwenhoek, see Letter L-331 of some time between late December 1697 and 15 January 1698.

The reference to “those to whom this matter had been entrusted [who] have not acted very honestly and that not everything has happened in the way they allege” refers to the “said physician” Lotty and perhaps, because of the plural pronoun, to Arnoldi also.

Mr. Colombanus has not been identified.

According to n. 4 to Letter 194 L-346 of 14 August 1698 to Antonio Magliabechi, Collected Letters, vol. 12, a pistolet was at the time worth about 4.5 gulden. According to the International Institute of Social History’s Historical Prices and Wages calculator, fl. 4.50 from the year 1698 had a “purchasing power” of fl. 92.00 (€ 41.75) in 2021.


Letter L-346 of 14 August 1698 to Antonio Magliabechi

From this letter, I see that you do not by any means advise me to reimburse the man in question, who lives in Brussels, in any way for the expenses he says he has incurred in getting the book (with which you recently saw fit to make me happy).

Further, most illustrious sir, I would urgently request you to take no further pains to inquire any more about the vicissitudes or events relating to the book. Indeed, I quite realize, after due consideration of everything, that those to whom this matter had been entrusted have not acted very honestly and that not everything has happened in the way they allege; nor had this escaped my notice before the payment of a gold coin, which they call pistolet, had been exacted from me through a skipper (who at once brought a receipt from Brussels, in order that the payment should not be deferred).

Nevertheless, I yet paid that money, when claimed in this way, with the greatest pleasure, as do those who, in order to procure some treasure, spare no expenses, however great, to possess the thing they covet so much.

For what do I want? In this special case this is only a very small sum of money (perhaps paid by me owing to a misfortune) for so costly a book, because in fact very few similar books are offered, and particularly (which is the most important thing) because it was given to me as a present by you, most illustrious sir, than whom, in the common opinion of all those who are able to judge of it, there is no more learned man on Earth.

Since therefore this occurrence was wholly due to the behaviour of the said physician, who had of his own accord undertaken to deliver the book to me, I would again urgently request you not to think any further of the expenses incurred for it, for I am very happy that this present, which I already deplored as lost, has come into my possession through such a simple transaction, and that in this way I have been given an opportunity to boast before everybody that such an expensive book has been sent to me from Florence by such a great man, though I plainly have not deserved this.

Meanwhile you are to know that this book, which has been tossed about so violently and so long, has reached me in a somewhat damaged condition.

Letter 198 L-354 of 28 February 1699 to Antonio Magliabechi

I have received the letter which you, very noble and learned sir, have done me the honour to write, informing me at the same time that I shall receive the pistole which, as I was told, is the cost of the great present of the book which you sent me beyond my deserts. And a few days later Mr. Johan Arnoldi in Brussels informed me that Mr. Colombanus has reimbursed him for his advance payment and that it would be wrong to receive money twice for one thing and that he will therefore return the pistole he had received from me by the boat which comes from Brussels direct to our town, or by post. I answered him that he should send it by boat, and about eight days ago I received the pistole through the same boatman who fetched the pistole from me to Brussels.