Antonio Magliabechi wrote Letter L-172 to Leeuwenhoek, a "most courteous and agreeable letter"

March 16, 1686

This letter is known only by reference in a later letter that Leeuwenhoek sent to Magliabechi.

With this letter, Magliabechi begins his exchange of letters with Leeuwenhoek. For an overview, see Van Rijnberk, “De briefwisseling tusschen Leeuwenhoek and Magliabechi” (The correspondence between Leeuwenhoek and Magliabechi). Van Rijnberk accounts for 38 letters between them. Later research has uncovered four other letters from Magliabechi to Leeuwenhoek.

Leeuwenhoek’s first letter to Magliabechi, Letter L-174, has the date of 12 April 1686. In Letter L-182 of 30 October 1686, Leeuwenhoek refers to his letter of 14 April, apparently in error.

Note 2 to Letter 96 L-182, in Collected Letters, vol. 6, p. 177, says that, by “latest observations”, Leeuwenhoek “probably refers” to Ontledingen en ontdekkingen van het begin der planten in de zaden van boomen (Analyses and discoveries of the beginning of plants in the seeds of trees), published in 1685. It seems more likely, however, that Leeuwenhoek sent a Latin publication that Magliabechi could read. For the same reason, he had 11 of his letters to Magliabechi translated into Latin before he sent them, one translated into Italian, and one into French. In that case, Leeuwenhoek probably sent Anatomia et Contemplatio Nonnullorum Naturae invisibilium Secretorum (Anatomy and Contemplation of invisible secrets of nature), also published in 1685.

Leeuwenhoek’s reply to the present letter from Magliabechi, Letter 91 L-174 of 12 April 1686, was followed by three other letters before Magliabechi responded: Letter L-181 of 10 September 1686, Letter L-182 of 30 October 1686, and Letter L-202 of 1689. Magliabechi’s next letter to L. was Letter L-209 of 27 May 1691, a five-year gap that seems a long time for such a prolific letter writer as Magliabechi.

In most of his letters, Magliabechi mentions volumes newly printed in Italy that he thought might be of interest to L. L. gave those sections of Magliabechi’s letters to Pieter Rabus, in Rotterdam, who published them as “Italian Book News” in his journal De Boekzaal van Europe.


On 30 October 1686. Leeuwenhoek wrote to Magliabechi

I replied to Your Honour's most courteous and agreeable letter of the 16th March, Most Illustrious. Highly Learned and very Renowned Sir, by my missive of the 14th April, and in addition sent my latest observations which by then had been printed2). Since which time I have again made some slight observations and had them printed; these I sent on the 10th of last month to the Rev. Father Papenbroek, with the added request to forward the same at his early convenience to you, Most Ill., Highly Learned and very Renowned Sir. I do hope that there may be something in it that will please you.