Journal des Sçavans

Amsterdam: Chez Pierre le Grand

Journal des Sçavans (Journal of the Learned) is the oldest scientific journal that is still publishing. Its first issue in January 1665 pre-dated the first issue of Philosophical Transactions by two months.

The Journal, during Leeuwenhoek's time issued weekly on Monday, published summaries and translated excerpts from nine letters by Leeuwenhoek, seven written to Henry Oldenburg and the last two to Robert Hooke. Three of the letters had figures, for a total of ten figures, but no figures were published in Journal des Sçavans. They published these extracts in seven articles early in Leeuwenhoek's career.

By volume:

  • Volume IV, 1675 - one article, one letter
  • Volume VI, 1678 - one article, one letter
  • Volume VII, 1679 - three articles for one letter; one article for five letters
  • Volume XI, 1683 - one article, one letter

By letter:

Letter of ... AB/CL # AvL #  Journal des Sçavans
1674-04-07 5 3 Vol. VII, June 26, 1679, No. XV, pp. 198-201 *
1674-06-01 8 4 Vol. VII, June 26, 1679, No. XV, pp. 198-201 *
1674-07-06 9 5 Vol. VII,  June 26, 1679, No. XV, pp. 198-201 *
1674-09-07 11 6 Vol. IV, January 2, 1675. pp. 57-59 (before the weekly issues were numbered) ^
1675-08-14 18 12 Vol. VII, June 26, 1679, No. XV, pp. 198-201
1676-10-09 26 18 Vol. VI, March 28, 1678, No. XI, pp. 132-135 *
1677-05-14 32 20 Vol. VII, April 3, 1679, No. VIII, pp. 111-112
May 27, 1679, No. XIII, pp. 181
June 12, 1679, No. XIV, pp. 194-196
1678-01-14 37 23 Vol. VII,  June 26, 1679, No. XV, pp. 198-201 *
1682-04-04 68 36 Vol. XI, November 29, 1683, No. XXVII, pp. 363-364

The articles marked with an asterisk were extracted from the article appearing earlier in 1679 in Recueil d'Expériences et Observations sur le Combat, which were themselves extracts from the Philosophical Transactions translation of Leeuwenhoek's Dutch manuscripts.

^ In Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters, the issue and page numbers are incorrect.

The first, published on Monday, February 11, 1675, had been published in Philosophical Transactions, number 108, the previous November, excerpted from Leeuwenhoek's Letter 3 of September 7, 1674, to Oldenburg. In Journal des Sçavans, it was titled: "Extrait du Journal d'Angleterre, contenant quelques observations curieuses faites par le moyen du Microscope" (Extract from the English Journal, containing some curious observations made by mean of the Microscope).

As was their style, the article consisted of five numbered paragraphs that combined elements of a summary and a paraphrase. For example, number IV began "Ce qu'il a remarque sur l'eau de la Mer qui est du coste de Berkelse-sea ast encore tres-curieux" (What he noticed on the water of the Sea of Berkelse-sea is again very curious).

Three years later, in Vol. VI on March 28, 1678, they published four pages extracted from Leeuwenhoek's long and most famous letter, Letter 18 of October 9, 1676, which documented his months of observations of little animals in a variety of spice infusions. Philosophical Transactions published less than half of the letter in English translation first, on March 25, 1677, in number 133. The French extract came from Leeuwenhoek's summary of that letter in his Letter 28 to Constantijn Huygens of 7 November 1676.

Title: "Extrait du Journal d'Angleterre. Suite des observations de M. van Lewenhoeck. Découverte de plusieurs petits animaux dans de l'eau , où l'on avoit fait tremper du poivre" (Excerpt from the English Journal. Following the comments of Mr. van Lewenhoeck. Discovery of many little animals in water, where it had soaked in pepper).

The following spring, they excerpted another long letter, Letter 20 of May 14, 1677, which had been published in Philosophical Transactions on June 25, 1677, in number 136. The excerpts appeared in three issues of Vol. VII (image on right):

  • April 3, 1679, No. VIII, three paragraphs summarized Leeuwenhoek's observations of cotton used as bandages.
  • May 27, 1679, No. XIII, a short paragraph summarized Leeuwenhoek's observations of moxa (dried mugwort) as a remedy for gout.
  • June 12, 1679, No. XIV, a 500-word extract on the nature and qualities of both moxa and cotton.

At this point, the Royal Society had replicated Leeuwenhoek's observations of little animals but had not yet made him a member of the Royal Society. His name was becoming known in France. Two weeks later, Vol. VII on June 26, 1679, the Journal summarized the most "curious" observations in five letters, three of them from 1674.

  • Letter 4 of June 1, 1674
  • Letter 5 of July 6, 1674
  • Letter 6 of September 7, 1674
  • Letter 12 of August 14, 1675
  • Letter 23 of January 14, 1678

Shortened title: "Observations faites avec le microscope sur le Sang, le Lait, le Sucre, le Sel, & la Manne" (Observations made with the microscope about Blood, Milk, Sugar, Salt and Manna). It was itself an extract of the four of the five letters that appeared as the third section of Recueil d'Expériences et Observations sur le Combat in 1679.

Four and a half years later and for a final time, the Journal published Leeuwenhoek, in Vol. XI on November 29, 1683, No. XXVII, pp. 363-364. They excerpted about 400 words of the "singular" observations in Letter 36 of April 4, 1682, about muscle tissue Leeuwenhoek observed in lobsters and shrimp. Title: "Extrait du Journal d'Angleterre contenant quelques Observations singulieres du Sieur Louvenoeck [sic], touchant la barbe & le coquillage des huitres, le tout conceu en ces termes."

Earlier in 1683, the then-editor of the Journal, Jean de la Roque, began a new journal, Journal de médecine ou observations. He devoted it to publishing summaries and extracts of articles in non-French journals. The venture lasted only six months, but La Roque published excerpts from two of Leeuwenhoek's letters, including some figures.

After this flurry of activity, the Journal des Sçavans stopped paying attention to Leeuwenhoek, never again publishing anthing by or about him.