Richard Waller wrote Letter L-505 to Leeuwenhoek about how the Royal Society received his observations

July 19, 1714

In this never-published letter, Waller wrote about how the Royal Society received Leeuwenhoek’s recent observations. He asks Leeuwenhoek to examine the muscles of insects. He ended by saying that the Royal Society had several members to translate his letters and promising to send the most recent volume of Philosophical Transactions.

The date is New Style, which was eleven days ahead of the Old Style date of 8 July 1714 used by Waller in London. A copy is found in London, Royal Society, Letter Book Original 15.47, pp. 98-100.

At the end of the manuscript is the note, dating Waller’s answer erroneously, “The translation of Mr Leeuwenhoek’s letter to the Royal Society dat. June 22 1714 S.N. Read June the 24th 1714 S.V. And Mr Wallers answer July the 1st 1714. Enter these letters in the Letter Book.” S.N. is Style Nouveau, New Style, and S.V. is Style Vieux, Old Style.

Leeuwenhoek referred to this letter in Letter L-507 of 21 August 1714

I have seen in the most gracious and pleasant letter of the 8th of July 1714 of you, very noble sirs, that my missive has given great pleasure, and that I should not fail to continue to send my further discoveries; also that you, very noble sirs, desire to see the drawings I mentioned in my last letter of the parts which I had standing before the magnifying glass; some of them are enclosed herewith.


Letter Book Original vol. ? pp 98-100

The manuscript is to be found in London, Royal Society, Early Letters W3.87, 2 pages. Copied and pasted from Collected Letters, vol. 20.

Lond: July the 8 1714

            Worthy Sir

            Yours of the 22nd past we received[1], which being read in the next meeting of the Royal Society I was ordered to return you the thanks of the Society for that and your former communications and to desire the continuance of the like favor from you[2]. And to assure you that (when you seem to doubt whether the Society were fully satisfied as to some of your observations on the minute fibrilla of the flesh fibres of a muscle) the Society never had the least scruple as to the truth of those or any other of your microscopical discoveries, many of which have indeed to some persons at first seemed wonderful. But time and future observations have always verified them and reconciled the scrupulous inquirer to your assertions: In my last indeed I proposed the small muscles of insects to your inquiry, the generality of those creatures having as I may say their bones on the outsides of their limbs so I thought it possible that there might be some other peculiar mechanism for the moving of them, which I venture to recommend to your further inquiry, and if you please to send the delineation of the fibrilla of the muscles of the fly with those of larger animals which you mention you have before your microscope you may be assured of a grateful acceptance[3].

            As to what you mention in your last of the delineations of the small fibres of a muscle not being published in the Transactions, you will find the letter those figures belong to has not yet been printed. In the next Transactions that are published, which I purpose shortly to undertake, I shall take care to have them well graved and inserted[4]. Any other curious discovery you shall please to communicate to the Society shall be faithfully translated and read in our public meetings and the Society’s answer transmitted to you as soon as possible by me who shall always esteem it as a particular happiness to have any opportunities of showing how much I am Sr

            Your most humble etc



            Sr. for the future you need not give yourself the trouble of having your letters translated into Latin but may express yourself as formerly in your own language there being several gentlemen of the Society who will think no trouble to translate Mr. Leeuwenhoek’s letters[5].

            The Society have ordered a present of the last vol. of the Philosophical Transactions which shall be sent the first opportunity[6].


[1] Letter 306 [X] L-504 of 22 June 1714, Collected Letters, vol. 17.

[2] Meeting of 24 June 1714, Royal Society, Journal Book Original, vol. 12, p. 6. “A letter from Mr. Leuwenhoek dated Delft June the 22 1714 was read giving his thanks for the Transactions to the end of the year 1712 sent him which he has received, confirming his observations on the fibrillae of the muscles of the whales, oxen, and lesser animals, all which in their least fibres are of the same size and offering to send the delineations of the fibrillae as seen with a microscope if the society desires it. Mr. Waller was ordered to draw upp answer to this letter and to send the last years Transactions.”

[3] In the following months, L. responded by writing about muscle fibers of many animals but especially flies in Letter 307 [XI] L-507 of 21 August 1714 and Letter 308 [XII] L-509 of 26 October 1714, Collected Letters, vol. 17.

[4] Neither of those letters about muscle fibers was published in Philosophical Transactions. L. published them himself in the Send-Brieven in 1718.

[5] Over the following years, John Chamberlayne, James Jurin, Conrad Sprengell, and Phillip Henry Zollman all translated letters from L.

[6] Philosophical Transactions volume 28, with Hans Sloane as editor, was published in a single long issue, number 337, in late 1713. It contained one letter from L., Letter 302 [VII] L-496 of 28 June 1713, published as “A letter from Mr. Anthouy [sic] van Leeuwenhoek, F. R. S. containing some further microscopical observations on the animalcula found upon duckweed, &c.”