The Select Works of Antony van Leeuwenhoek

Hoole, S.
4°. 2 vols.
London: Henry Fry

Full title

The Select Works of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, containing his Microscopical Discoveries in many of the Works of Nature

Volume I (part 1) was first published in 1798 and Volume I (part 2) the following year, 1799. Volume II (part 3) was first published in 1807.

Full-text facsimiles of Volume I and Volume II are available online at

"Hoole's translations are often excellent"

Samuel Hoole (1758-1839) was an English clergyman who translated and rearranged selected passages from Leeuwenhoek's letters around 1800. Until Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters, Hoole's volumes and Philosophical Transactions were the only English versions of Leeuwenhoek's letters. In 1950, Dobell wrote:

Hoole used only the Dutch and Latin editions, and incorporated none of the material published solely in the Philosophical Transactions. For example, the great letter describing the discovery of the Protozoa and Bacteria (to the Royal Society, 9 October 1676) is not even mentioned by Hoole. And his method of stringing together passages from different letters -- often of widely different date, and with no reference whatsoever to their originals -- while having some obvious advantages, renders it extremely troublesome to trace his patchwork translations to their sources.

Yet apart from these evident shortcomings, from a critical student's standpoint, Hoole's translations are often excellent. This, at least, is my opinion: and I have tried my hand at the same thing with no better success. If anyone now wants to know what Leeuwenhoek wrote and thought on a great variety of subjects, but does not require exact references, dates, and other details, he will find it in Hoole expressed in words which clearly and closely convey the sense of the original Dutch and Latin to a modern English reader.

I first read these translations over forty years ago with eager interest and delight, and I can still read them -- after intimate acquaintance with their originals -- without wincing and even with pleasure. To my mind Hoole's eighteenth-century English and mannerisms now add the necessary archaism to his versions of Leeuwenhoek's old-fashioned Dutch, and thus make his translations more acceptable than many another published more recently. I think, too, that anyone who has read the two volumes of the Select Works should have a very just idea of the kind of work Leeuwenhoek did and the sort of man he was. At all events, Hoole -- though he omits much and glosses over all coarseness and impropriety -- is seldom misleading. Within his self-imposed and narrow-minded limits he did his work remarkably well. It has never yet been surpassed by more recent translators.

Since Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters had already published three volumes by the time Dobell wrote, he apparently did not think highly of the translations made by A. E. Swaen or A. Querido.