Alle de Brieven. The Collected Letters.

Leeuwenhoek, A. van
1 - 17
Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger
1939 - 2016

Starting in 1939, an evolving committee of Dutch scientists and, increasingly, historians, has slowly made its way through all 300+ surviving letters. They published them a volume at a time until the end of the century.

Leeuwenhoek, A. van. Alle de Brieven / Collected letters. Edited and annotated by a committee of Dutch scientists. 15 Volumes. Amsterdam and Lisse: Swets and Zeitlinger, 1939–2014.

The editors state:

The aim of the project is to produce a critical edition of the text of van Leeuwenhoek’s letters with a modern English translation, with philological, historical and scientific annotations, internal references, and photos of drawings and engravings.

Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters

year vol letters years editor
1939 I [1] – 21 [14] 1673-1676 C.G. Heringa
1941 II 22 [15] – 42 [27] 1676-1678
1948 III 43 [28] – 69 1679-1682 A. Schierbeek
1952 IV 70 [37] – 81 [42] 1683-1684
1957 V 82 [43] – 89 [48] 1685-1686
1961 VI 90 [49] – 101 [56] 1686-1687 J.J. Swart
1964 VII 102 [57] – 109 [64] 1687-1688
1967 VIII 110 [65] – 119 [71] 1688-1692
1976 IX 120 [72] – 133 [79] 1692-1694 J. Heniger
1979 X 134 [80] – 147 [90] 1694-1695 L.C. Palm
1983 XI 148 – 169 [102] 1695-1696
1989 XII 170 [103] – 206 [121] 1696-1699
1994 XIII 207 [122] – 227 [139] 1700-1701
1996 XIV 228 [140] – 248 1701-1704
1999 XV 249 – 269 1704-1707
2014 XVI 270 - 294 1707-1712
2018 XVII 295 – 323 1712-1716 H.J. Zuidervaart and D. Anderson

This illustrated and heavily annotated work has the Dutch on the left and the English on the right. Although the first two volumes used older translations, the subsequent volumes have all been freshly translated into English. An indispensable project, it has been led for the last thirty years by L.C. Palm (above left) of the The Institute for History and Foundations of Science, part of the Descartes Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands. A decade ago, Dr. Palm wrote in Changing Demands, Changing Policies:

The aim is to have the mss of the parts yet to be published ready for printing at the end of 2008.

In 1999, the fifteenth volume in this nineteen-volume series was published. It has twenty-one letters written by Leeuwenhoek between July 1704 and July 1707. Two-thirds of the letters were written to the Royal Society in London as well as John Chamberlayne, who translated them for publication; others were written to Antonio Magliabechi and Francesco Corner.

All the databases -- the publisher's, Amazon's, and WorldCat's -- use the Arabic numbering 1 - 17. The volumes themselves use the Roman numbering I - XVII.

The first nine volumes were published by CRC Press in Amsterdam, and the most recent six, those under the supervision of Dr. Palm, by Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse, though all nine are often listed as published by only Swets and Zeitlinger. In any case, both CRC and Swets and Zeitlinger are now imprints of Taylor and Francis, the academic publishing arm of Informa.

The Taylor and Francis web site, and thus, has them all as published by CRC Press. The printed title page of Volume XIV states that the publisher is Swets and Zeitlinger in Lisse. [ add screenshot ] WorldCat lists all the volumes as published by Swets and Zeitlinger, as does the bibiiography for this web.

That leaves the final seventeen years of letters and four volumes. The publisher's web site announced the publication of volumes 16 and 17 for several years. The volumes had ISBN numbers and a price, $249.95, but Taylor and Francis kept pushing back the publication date for I assume sound economic reasons -- lack of market and lack of any subsidy to make up for it. In any event, volume 16 finally appeared in April 2014 and volume 17 is scheduled for July 2016. That will leave two more.

While volume 16 cost $171 at Amazon in late 2014, the first fifteen volumes are rare and expensive, upwards of $300 each when found used. They are listed as out of print and unavailable at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The publisher offers volume 14 new for $319.95 and states, "Volumes One to 13 are available at a reduced price from Swets and Zeitlinger."

Another option is a library. World Cat lists 18 libraries in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. that have a complete collection up to volume 11.