Johan Arnoldi wrote Letter L-333 to Leeuwenhoek about problems delivering Magliabechi's gift book

January 15, 1698

There is no manuscript. This letter is known only by reference in another letter.

In this letter, Johan Arnoldi wrote to Leeuwenhoek that one of the domestic servants of the prince of Tuscany had asked him to find out what had happened to the book titled Saggi di naturali esperienze. Antonio Magliabechi, the prince’s librarian, had given it to Luca Giamberti to take to Dusseldorf and forward to Leeuwenhoek. Arnoldi traced the book by finding a Mr Lotty, to whom Giamberti had given the book to deliver to Leeuwenhoek. Lotty had left for England, but not before he offered to sell the book to the secretary of the prince of Vaudemont. Arnoldi wrote to ask Leeuwenhoek how he should proceed.

This letter began an exchange of letters between Leeuwenhoek and Arnoldi about the gift of the book that Antonio Magliabechi sent to Leeuwenhoek. It was followed by Leeuwenhoek’s Letter L-331, written between 15 January and 20 February 1698, not as is says in Collected Letters, vol. 12, p. 205, “Late 1697 or early 1698”. The Latin rescripsi, translated in Letter L-336 of 20 February 1698 as “wrote again”, implying an earlier letter, is better translated as “wrote back”. In it, Leeuwenhoek wrote that Arnoldi should do whatever it takes to get the book and that he will pay whatever it costs.

In Letter L-339 of April 1698, Arnoldi wrote that he spent a pistole to get the book and lefts it to Leeuwenhoek to decide whether to compensate him. In Letter L-340 of April 1698, Leeuwenhoek replied that he will pay the pistole and whatever other expenses Arnoldi incurred.

Almost a year later, in Letter L-351 of February 1699, Arnoldi wrote that he had been reimbursed for the pistole he spent to get the book. He was returning the pistole that Leeuwenhoek had earlier sent as compensation. In Letter L-352, written before 28 February 1699, Leeuwenhoek replied that Arnoldi should repay him by boat.

This exchange was reported by L. in four letters to Magliabechi: Letter L-336 of 20 February 1698, Letter L-342 of 17 April 1698, Letter L-346 of 14 August 1698, and Letter L-354 of 28 February 1699.

Arnoldi is perhaps Joannes Arnoldi Anthoni (1626-1710) from Loenhout, Belgium.

The book in question is Lorenzo Magalotti’s Saggi di naturali esperienze fatte nell’Academia del Cimento (Essays on natural experiments done at the Academia del Cimento), the second edition of which was published in 1691 in Florence. In Latin translation, it became the standard laboratory manual of the 18th century.

For Luca Giamberti, see Letter L-325 of 19 July 1697. Giovanni Coqus was his travelling companion. The prince de Vaudémont is Charles Henri of Lorraine (1649-1723). His secretary at the time was Claude Francois Canon (1629-1698). See Letter L-336 of 20 February 1698 to Antonio Magliabechi.


On February 20, 1698, Letter L-336, Leeuwenhoek wrote to Magliabechi,

I am bound to inform You in this letter that Mr J. Arnoldi wrote to me on 15 January 1698 from Brussels; he had received a letter from Prague in Bohemia from one Mr Cooqus, one of the Domestics of the Most Serene Prince of Tuscany, in which he was asked to inquire about a book entitled:

Saggi di Naturali Experi.

In connection with this letter he had made every effort to trace this book and finally he had found the man to whom the Book had been entrusted for delivery to me. This man, however, had left for England, but had left behind his possessions, including also the book repeatedly mentioned, in Brussels, since he had decided to return there shortly.

For that reason Mr Arnoldi in his letter asked me to inform him shortly what I wished to be done in this matter; indeed, he stated that delay was dangerous, because the man to whom the book had been entrusted had already offered it for sale to the Secretary of the most serene Prince of Vaudemont.

Thereupon I wrote again to the Noble Mr Arnoldi and requested him urgently to use in this matter such means as he thought in his discretion to be required in order that I should at last get the book. I told him that I should very gladly pay the expenses that would have to be incurred for the purpose, and this with the more pleasure because I know that this present was given to me by the Most Illustrious Magliabechi, whose friendship I must always cherish.

Moreover I enclosed in my letter an epistle I had received from Düsseldorf, since it can be seen therefrom that the book was in the hands of that man for no other purpose than for delivery to me. In this way therefore I hope that this treasure I so ardently long to receive will at last reach me; if this has happened, I will not omit to write and tell you as soon as possible.