Wrote Letter 35 of 1682-03-03 (AB 67) to Robert Hooke

March 3, 1682
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Text of the letter in the original Dutch and in English translation from Alle de Brieven / The Collected Letters at the DBNL - De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

The original manuscript on eleven quarto pages, written and signed by Leeuwenhoek, is preserved along with seven drawings at the Royal Society (MS. 1894. L 1. 66.).


The Dutch and Latin editions that Leeuwenhoek published used the same plates placed in the text where he discussed the figure. The scans on the left sidebar came from the 1708 third edition of Arcana Naturae Microscopiorum. The scans on the right sidebar show the original seven drawings preserved by the Royal Society.

In the text, Leeuwenhoek indicated that he drew these figures in red chalk. Referring to Fig. 2, he wrote:

I made a drawing of it as best as I could (for I cannot draw).

A few pages later, he wrote:

And if I had drawn fig. 4 according to the size that I observed constantly, it should have been more than 16 times thicker.

When he described what we now know as the nucleus of the blood cell, he wrote:

It seemed to me that some of them enclosed in a small space a little, round body or globule, and at some distance from this body there was round the globule a clear ring and round that ring again a slowly shadowing contour, forming the circumference of a globule and, as well as I could, represented in fig. 5.

The oyster shell, not included in the printed versions, was the most technically demanding of these drawings. Leeuwenhoek does not explicitly state that he drew it himself. Nor does he say that he had it drawn by someone else.

Comparison of the drawings and the prints on the sidebars shows how the engraver's skill improved the look of the drawings, though perhaps not their accuracy.