Nicolaas Witson wrote Letter L-291 of sometime before July 1696 to Leeuwenhoek about an enclosed mineral, map, and letter

July 1, 1696

This letter is known only by reference in Leeuwenhoek’s reply, Letter L-292 of 6 July 1696. It was written sometime before that date and after Leeuwenhoek's previous letter to Witsen, Letter L-287 of 8 March 1696.

With this letter, Witsen encloses a mineral from eastern Asia and a map that Witsen, also a cartographer, made himself so that Leeuwenhoek can find the geographic source of the mineral. He also sends Leeuwenhoek a copy of a letter he has received from the East Indies about little animals producing honey at the village of Ergam on the southeasten coast of India.

Leeuwenhoek initiates this brief exchange of letters with Witsen with Letter L-287 of 8 March 1696. In it, Leeuwenhoek discusses the vermin that infested the stores of spices that the Dutch East India Company had brought back from the East Indies. As a director (bewindhebber) of the Amsterdam chamber of the Company and one of the mayors of Amsterdam, Witsen had a special interest in Leeuwenhoek’s solution of painting the warehouses with a red paint that the worms could not penetrate. Witsen replied with the present letter, to which Leeuwenhoek responded with Letter L-292 of 6 July 1696, reporting the results of his analysis of the mineral that Witsen had sent to him. Leeuwenhoek’s final letter to Witsen was written four days later, Letter L-294 of 10 July 1696, explaining his demonstration of the then-disputed theory that Earth rotates around its axis. It is not known whether Witsen replied to either of these letters.

Shortly thereafter, Leeuwenhoek corresponded with Maarten Etienne van Velden on the same topic in Letter L-306 of 26 October 1696 and Letter L-314 of 12 February 1697.

For Nicolaas Witsen (1641-1717), see Gebhard, Het Leven van Mr. Nicolaas Cornelisz. Witsen.


Letter L-292 of 6 July 1696 to Nicolaas Witsen

I have received Your Honour’s welcome letter as well as the mineral in which there is said to be lead, silver, and gold, and which was dug up near the source of the big River Amur, near the city of Mersenskoy in the centre of Tartary, which city I have found on the map made by Your Honour, for which the whole world is obliged to you. I am very grateful for the present of the map as well as of the mineral. ...

I am also grateful for the copy of what was sent to Your Honour by the recently arrived ships from the East Indies, concerning the little animals producing lacquer and honey in Erokam.