The book titles on this page link directly to Amazon.com, where you can purchase books listed in the bibliography that are also in print. I use Amazon's Associates Program to help defray server and bandwidth expenses, so I appreciate your use of my links for your shopping.
If the book is not available on Amazon, the link here goes to a listing of its availability in used condition.
Several interesting books listed on the Bibliography page are not available from Amazon or anywhere else, so they are not listed here.
by van Leeuwenhoek
Leeuwenhoek, A. van. Collected letters / Alle de Brieven. Edited and annotated by a committee of Dutch scientists. Volumes 1–15. Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger, 1939–1999. Volume 14 and Volume 15 at Amazon US
The Collected Letters of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek is a series of 19 volumes which collects all of van Leeuwenhoek's original manuscripts and letters. Each book in the series is richly illustrated and all manuscripts are annotated and published in the original Dutch with an English translation.
Only volumes 14 and 15 are available at Amazon, and the others are rare even at rare book sellers'. Prices range up to three and four hundred dollars per volume. Hoole's Select Works is even more rare; I cannot find it for sale even used online.
Hoole, S. The Select Works of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, containing his Miscrosopical [sic] Discoveries in many of the Works of Nature. 2 vols. London: G. Sidney, 1800; reprint New York: Arno Press, 1977.
biographies of van Leeuwenhoek
Dobell's classic, standard, and indispensable biography is long out of print and hard to find, even used.
Dobell, Clifford. Antony van Leeuwenhoek and his "little animals": Being some account of the father of protozoology & bacteriology and his multifarious discoveries in these disciplines. London: Constable and Company Limited, 1932.
Ford's books are also out of print. The Leeuwenhoek Legacy is especially helpful for technical details about the constructions and use of van Leeuwenhoek's lenses and microscopes.
Ford, Brian J. The Leeuwenhoek Legacy. Bristol and London: Biopress and Farrand Press, 1991.
Ford, Brian J. Single Lens: The Story of the Simple Microscope
As with the Dobell biography, the Palm and Snelders collection of interesting essays is hard to find even in used condition. The link below goes to Amazon UK.
Palm, L. C. and H. A. M. Snelders, eds. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, 1632–1723: studies on the life and work of the Delft scientist commemorating the 350th anniversary of his birthday. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982.
Ruestow's book is equally about Swammerdam, which helps place van Leeuwenhoek in his time. It is also about microscope technology more from the viewpoint of history than of optics.
Ruestow, Edward G. The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: The Shaping of Discovery. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
This one-volume translated abridgement of Schierbeek's original Dutch two-volume set Antoni van Leeuwenhoek : zijn leven en zijn werken (1950) lacks helpful bibliographical details. The original is very rare, so the link above is to its WorldCat listing.
Schierbeek, Abraham. Measuring the invisible world; the life and works of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek FRS. With a biographical chapter by Maria Rooseboom. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1959.
Dutch Golden Age
The books below, all published in the last twenty years, gave me the background to read van Leeuwenhoek's letters in context. The first is available only through Amazon UK.
These books are listed alphabetically by author, but as it happens, I found the first three most valuable for an overall picture of van Leeuwenhoek's time and place.
Berkel, K. van, A. van Helden, and L. Palm, eds. A History of Science in The Netherlands. Survey, Themes and Reference. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Cook, Harold J. Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
De Vries, Jan, and Ad Van Der Woude. The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815 New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Compared to the above books, which take a high, distant perch, van Deursen's book brings you right down to daily life as it was lived. Combined with the art of the period, especially Ostade and Hals, this book helped me see, hear, and smell van Leeuwenhoek's world.
Deursen, A. Th. van. Plain Lives in a Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century Holland. Translated by Maarten Ultee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Frijhoff, Willem, and Marijke Spies. 1650: Hard-Won Unity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Israel's massive reference work necessarily sacrifices depth for breadth. But after the Wikipedia, it is the best way to find something fast all in one place.
Israel, Jonathan. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
Prak, Maarten. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century: The Golden Age. Translated by Diane Webb. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Schama's books, ten years ago, were my introduction to this period of history. I've been hooked ever since.
Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. 1987. reprint: New York: Vintage, 1997.
Schama, Simon. Rembrandt's Eyes. New York: Knopf, 1999.
Zumthor, Paul. Daily Life in Rembrandt's Holland. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994.
Marie Boas Hall made her career studying the Royal Society. Her collected letters of Henry Oldenburg (in eleven volumes, with her husband Rupert Hall) unfortunately has very few of Oldenburg's letters to van Leeuwenhoek; all van Leeuwenhoek's personal papers are long lost.
Hall, Marie Boas. Henry Oldenburg: Shaping the Royal Society. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Hall, Marie Boas. Promoting Experimental Learning: Experiment and the Royal Society, 1660-1727. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
It is curious to compare the amount of information online and in bookstores about van Leeuwenhoek with the amount about Robert Hooke. Van Leeuwenhoek is a scattered shower, much of it out of print. Hooke is a steady downpour, readily available. If Lisa Jardine's terrific story isn't to your taste, there are half a dozen other recent biographies to be sampled at Amazon.
Jardine, Lisa. The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London New York: Harper, 2005.
Hooke had one skill that van Leeuwenhoek did not. Almost every van Leeuwenhoek letter in Philosophical Transactions is accompanied by an illustration, but van Leeuwenhoek had to hire draughtsmen. Hooke, however, drew his own, and they are fascinating.
Hooke, Robert. Micrographia: Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by magnifying glasses. London: Royal Society, 1665. reprint Charleston, S.C.: BiblioBazaar, 2007.
The huge, fold-out detailed images caused a sensation in 1665 and made Micrographia a bestseller. Hooke, like everyone else at the time, used the microscope to look closely at things they could already see. In fact, an early term for microscope was "flea glasses".
If only van Leeuwenhoek drew as well.
Van Dale's is the standard Dutch-English dictionary. It is especially strong on usage of the terms in phrases that help distinguish the subtle but important differences.
Donaldson's Dutch grammar is the best I have found written in English.
Amazon.co.UK has the paperback of the 2008 edition, which is not available via Amazon.com
This microscope, for well under a hundred dollars, will let you see everything van Leeuwenhoek could see.
Meet the Authors
Since there are no extant portraits of Hooke, we'll have to do with the faces of some of the creatures he drew.