Bibliothèque universelle et historique

Author: 
Clerc, J. le, and Jean Cornand de La Croze
Publisher: 
Amsterdam: Wolfgang, Waesberge, Boom and van Someren
Year: 
1686 - 1718

Bibliothèque universelle et historique de l'année 16__ (Universal and Historical Library of the Year 16__)

In Leeuwenhoek's time, English was not common on the continent of Europe. Those interested in English-language scholarship, Philosophical Transactions notwithstanding, relied on translations and journals like the Bibliothèque universelle et historique. This journal of book notices and reviews was published in French in Amsterdam in two dozen volumes (image on right; click to enlarge) from 1686 to 1693. It was written and edited by Jean Le Clerc and Jean Cornand de Lacroze and, later, Jacques Bernard.

Le Clerc was a champion of the English language and culture, especially their philosophical achievements. As a result, Bibliothèque universelle et historique has more articles about theology, philosophy, history, and even philology than about science. Nevertheless, in the late 1680's, Le Clerc and Cornand published summaries and comments on 16 of Leeuwenhoek's letters from 1679 to 1688.

On the table below, the first of the letters, in volumes 1 and 2, was addressed to Nehemiah Grew and the five after that to Robert Hooke. The other ten, in volumes 5 and 9, were addressed to the members of the Royal Society. The page numbers show that they published summaries of and excerpts from Leeuwenhoek's letters, usually without figures, in four batches: six letters consecutively in volumes 1 and 2, one letter in volume 5, and five letters consecutively and then four letters consecutively in volume 9. The information about the figures comes from Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters, which indicates that only a quarter of the 136 figures in these 16 letters were included. However, examination of the volumes shows that these figures were discussed, but the Bibliothèque universelle had no plates other than the frontispiece of some volumes.

Letter 30 of April 5, 1680, and Letter 48 of January 22, 1686, were printed here before they were printed in Philosophical Transactions but after they were published by Leeuwenhoek in Levende Dierkens and Cinnaber Naturalis in 1686 and perhaps even after Anatomia Seu Interiora Rerum in 1687. Did Le Clerk have access to the copies lying unpublished in London? The unpublished English translations that were read at meeting of the Royal Society in April 1680 (Letter 30) and again in April 1686 (Letter 48)? Or did he use the Dutch or more likely the Latin edition printed in Leiden?

At the meeting of the Royal Society on April 6/16, 1687, the Royal Society read Leeuwenhoek's Letter 53 of April 4, 1687 about the structure of teeth. Just before that, according to Birch's History, vol. IV p. 530:

It was ordered, that Mr. Hunt provide some oisters, to see, whether in a microscope there could be found any such animalcula, as are reported to be in the liquor of oisters from a letter of Mr. Leeuwenhoeck printed in the Bibliotheque Universale.

They were referring to Letter 35 of March 3, 1682, which had been excerpted in Bibliothèque universelle in 1686, but had also been published by Robert Hooke in Philosophical Collections and was available in their own archives.

Letter date AB/CL # AvL/Cole # Bibliothèque universelle
1679-04-25 43 28 Vol. 1, 1687, pp. 469-474, none of 1 figure
1680-01-12 54 29 Vol. 1, 1687, pp. 474-481, 26 of 25 figures
1680-04-05 57 30 Vol. 2, 1686, pp. 460-462, neither of 2 figures
1681-11-04 66 34 Vol. 2, 1686, pp. 462-466, none of 4 figures
1682-03-03 67 35 Vol. 2, 1686, pp. 466-469, none of 7 figures
1682-04-04 68 36 Vol. 2, 1686, pp. 469, no figures
1686-01-22 89 48 Vol. 5, 1687, pp. 372-383, none of 3 figures
1687-04-04 98 53 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 292-294, none of 5 figures
1687-05-09 99 54 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 294-297, none of 7 figures
1687-06-13 100 55 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 297-301, none of 28 figures
1687-07-11 101 56 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 301-311, neither of 2 figures
1687-08-06 102 57 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 148-152, 2 of 10 figures
1687-09-09 103 58 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 152-157, 4 of 8 figures
1687-10-17 104 59 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 158-163, none of 11 figures
1687-11-28 105 60 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 163-164, none of 5 figures
1688-09-07 110 65 Vol. 9, 1688, pp. 164-168, 4 of 15 figures