Visited by Jacob Gronovius

November 5, 1686

Jacob Gronovius (1645-1716) was professor of history and Greek at the university in Leiden. In the mid-1670s, he had lived in Pisa, where he became acquainted with Magliabechi.

Gronovius seems to have made the first contact with Leeuwenhoek, in July 1686. The following October, Leeuwenhoek opened his first letter to Magliabechi with

The Very Learned Jacob Gronovius writes to me from Leyden, dated 11th July, that Your Honour has several times made mention of me in his letters, from Florence, and of the respect which you, most Ill., bears towards me, with further expressions of courtesy, for all of which honour that is done me, because of my modest work in discovering mysteries hitherto concealed, I remain most deeply grateful, and wish I had the abilities that would make me deserve all these compliments, and to be able to be of service to Your Honour.

This visit the following November 5 is the first of the series of visits for which a specific date is known.


Two days after the visit, on November 7, 1686, Jacob Gronovius wrote to Magliagechi (in Latin; my translation):

Two days ago, Leeuwenhoek greeted me with extreme friendliness and spoke about you. He also requested that I would forward this letter to you, which I hereby do. I hope that it will reach you well and safely.

The letter that Gronovius delivered was the letter of 30 October quoted above. Ten years later, Gronovius delivered another letter to Leeuwenhoek in late November 1695, as Leeuwenhoek wrote to Magliabechi on 22 December, 1695.

To your very welcome letter, which you wrote to me on the 12th of October, I wrote an answer on the 31st of October, which I hope You will already have received. In it, amongst other things, I intimated that I handed to the Very Noble Baron Bettimo Riacoroli a parcel containing some books, for him to take it to Düsseldorf, in order that it might be carried thence by mules to Florence, and that on the same day I despatched a parcel to Rotterdam, in order that it might be transported thence by sea to Livorno. This parcel I sealed carefully and marked with the letters A.M., and I added a letter, marked in the same way and addressed to the Very Noble Consul of the Netherlands, in which I urgently requested the Very Noble Consul to deliver to you those books along with the enclosed letter. Afterwards I learned that the name of the ship is ‘The Golden Rock’; the captain, who was only waiting for a favourable wind, is called Frans Wildschut.

After this I received from the Rev. Father Daniel Papenbroek your very welcome letter of the 14th of October, and from the hands of the famous Gronovius himself the letter you wrote to me on the 5th of November. Both these letters are filled with so many and such great proofs of esteem that I blush with shame whenever I recall them, because I am aware of the fact that I never deserved such homage, in the sense that my work is not worthy of such great honour as you, Very Noble and Illustrious Sir, vouchsafe to it.

However, I assure you that I have dedicated my book to You only out of sincere regard and I had expected nothing but a letter stating that You were not displeased with it, whereas now I feel ashamed whenever I read through those proofs of esteem. Now it seemed well to me, noble Sir, to write this letter to You in order that you might learn what I have done with the books. I hope they will reach the right hands, so that Yourself as well as the Scholars in Italy may find therein such things as are not unwelcome to their Great learning. But I end this letter and wish you, illustrious Sir, in all obedience the best, while I confess that I am not worthy of your great esteem.

The following September, Gronovius had to send someone else to deliever a letter. As Leeuwenhoek reported to Magliabechi on 7 September 1696,

After that time I received Your most kind letter of the 5th of June, which the very famous Gronovius, when travelling through our city, sent to me through the intermediary of someone else, since he himself had no time to visit my house. And it is just because this letter came so late into my hands that I have not been able to reply to it sooner.

A year and a half later, Leeuwenhoek mentioned Gronovius in his letter to Magliabechi, Letter 191 of 20 Februari 1698.

In due time, Most Illustrious Sir, the letter which you again thought fit to write to me was delivered to me by the very famous Mr Gronovius. I would inform you that I found it very welcome and a great pleasure to read, especially because I saw that it is again full of very evident marks of Your usual benevolence and kindness towards me;