Leeuwenhoek as Camerbewaarder

In 1660, Leeuwenhoek was appointed camerbewaarder of the Schepenencamer, literally the Magistrates' Chamber, but it was also used for meetings of the Vertigraad, Heren van de Wet, and, after 1662, the Schutterij. Clifford Dobell, Leeuwenhoek's English biographer, translated the word as chamberlain, implying a janitor's functions. Abraham Schierbeek, his Dutch biographer, wrote, "It is extremely difficult to form a good notion of the functions of a camerbewaarder."

Leeuwenhoek's appointment, when he was not yet 30, included a payment of 314 guilders per year: 260 for acting as camerbewaarder of this room. He received an additional 54 guilders to keep the room clean and the fire lit, which could have been done by someone Leeuwenhoek hired. He held the post until March 1699, and continued to draw the salary, increased to 400 guilders, until his death.

What did Leeuwenhoek do, exactly?

What did he do?

This item in the city's bylaws appointing Leeuwenhoek lists his responsibilities (Dobell's translation; my paragraphing and emphasis):

Den 26sten Maart 1660 is Antony Leeuwenhoek, in plaats van Jan Strick, tot Camerbewaarder gestelt, op gelijke gagie, baten ende emolumenten.

Mijnen Heeren Burgemeesteren ende Regeerders der stad Delft hebben gestelt ende committeeren bij desen, Antony Leeuwenhoek

tot het waarnemen van de Camer, daer de H.H. Schout, Schepens ende die van de wet deser Stadt vergaderen, om de voorz. Camer te openen ende te sluyten, soo op ordinaris als extraordinaris vergaderingen van de voorn. Heeren, op soodanige wijsen, als des vereyscht ende nodig sal wesen

item deselve Heeren te betonen alle respect, eere ende reverentie ende naerstelyck te agtervolgen ende getrouwelijck te effectueren alle diensten, die hem sullen werden belast, ende secreet te houden 't gunt hij in de Camer soude mogen hooren

de vooiz. Camer pertinentelyck te reynigen ende schoon te houden

't vuyr, soo wanneer den tijd sulcx sal vereyschen, op syn bequarnen tijd aan te leggen ende de kooien, die ongeconsumeert soude moge wesen, tot syn profyt wel te bewaren, dat geen ongeluk daar van ofte van het Ligt van de kaarsen

en geschiedde ende sal voorts alles doen dat een goet ende getrouw Camerbewaarder schuldig is te doen ende behoort.

Voor welcken dienst de voorz. Antony Leeuwenhoek sal genieten soodanigen gagie, bate ende emolumenten als voorn. Jan Strick saliger syn voorzaat in dienste heeft genoten, ende sal desselfs dienst ingaan metten 24 January 1660 ende syn gagie betaalt werden op soodanige termynen, als die aan den voorz. Strick betaalt syn geweest.

Actum bij al de Burgmeesteren collegialiter vergadert den 26sten Maart 1660 ende geteekent bij den Pensionaris J. Camerling.

On March 26, 1660 was Antony Leeuwenhoek, in place of Jan Strick, appointed as Camerbewaarder, at the same wages, benefits and emoluments.

Their Worships the Burgomasters and Magistrates of the Town of Delft have appointed and do hereby charge Antony Leeuwenhoek

to look after the Chamber wherein the Chief Judge the Sheriffs and the Law Officers of this Town do assemble [in order] to open and to shut the foresaid Chamber at both ordinary and extraordinary assemblies of the foresaid Gentlemen in such wise as shall be required and needful

to show towards these Gentlemen all respect honour and reverence and diligently to perform and faithfully to execute all charges which may be laid upon him and to keep to himself whatever he may over hear in the Chamber

to clean the foresaid Chamber properly and to keep it neat and tidy

to lay the fire at such times as it may be required and at his own convenience and carefully to preserve for his own profit what coals may remain unconsumed and see to it that no mischance befall thereby nor from the light of the candles.

He shall furthermore do all that is required of and that pertaineth to a good and trusty Chamberlain.

For the which service the foresaid Antony Leeuwenhoek shall enjoy such wages, benefits and emoluments as the foresaid lamented Jan Strick his predecessor in office did enjoy and shall enter into his duties upon the morning of the 24th of January 1660 and his wages shall be paid upon the same terms as those whereon the foresaid Jan Strick's were paid.

Ordered by all the mayors in Council assembled this 26th day of March 1660 and signed by J. Camerling, Pensionary.

There are some specific tasks, "to clean" and "to lay the fire", and some vague references to "all charges" and "all that is required".

Note: J. Camerling was a city pensionaris, but he died in 1640, twenty years before this document was written.

The extract on the right (click to enlarge) comes from the Resolutions of the Council of State of Holland and West Friesland, dated 1723, the year Leeuwenhoek died. It lists the fees that their kamerbewaarder could charge for various services. Some of them had to do with debtors (gyselingh). Others, indcluding the payments, were for:

  • doing a summons or warrant, 12 stuivers
  • hearing a witness, 12 stuivers
  • administering an oath of office to a process server, 1 guilder, 5 stuivers

While this was not Leeuwenhoek's job, it suggests that a kamerbewaarder could do far more than keep the room open, warm, and tidy.

When did he do it?

The archives make it clear when Leeuwenhoek was appointed: March 26, 1660 retroactive to the previous January 1. He is listed in the 1650-1692 register on the left below. He is not listed in the 1692-1720 register on the right.

On the left is the page for Camerbewaarders, the mayors' chambers (Burgemeester's Camer) above and magistrates' chamber (Schepenen Camer) below. Leeuwenhoek's name is crossed out and that of Arnold Ramp, his successor, is not. Under Leeuwenhoek's name is "om afstand van Anthonij Leeuwenhoek", by departure or resignation. It thus looks as though Leeuwenhoek was no longer the active camerbewaarder some time before 1692, though he continued to receive payment for the rest of his life.

Above is the corresponding page for the 1692 register. It has Arnold Ramp's name as Camerbewaarder van de Schepenen en Raedkamer. The latter acknowledges that the Heren van de Weth, the schepenen plus the burgemeesters and the paid staff, met there, too. The word obijt indicates the year of death.