daughter Maria wrote Letter L-591 as a cover letter for the cabinet with 26 magnifying glasses to the Royal Society (AB 381)

October 4, 1723
Collected Letters volume: 

In this cover letter, Leeuwenhoek’s daughter Maria van Leeuwenhoek presented the Royal Society with her father’s bequest of a small cabinet of his hand-made silver microscopes. She asked for the favor of acknowledgment of its receipt.

According to Dobell, the letter “made no pretensions to scientific knowledge or classical scholarship, and was written not in Latin but in homely, illiterate, and even ungrammatical Dutch.” It is written in a different hand than the signature. 

Maria enclosed the present letter in the cabinet of microscopes that she entrusted to Arnout van den Berch, who in turn handed it over to the Rotterdam merchant Abraham Edens, who did not deliver the package to the Royal Society until 7/18 November 1723. On the same day on which Maria sent this letter, 4 October 1723, Petrus Gribius sent Letter L-592 to James Jurin, which arrived well before Maria’s package.

Leeuwenhoek mentioned this cabinet in Letter L-392 of 2 August 1701. The cabinet was also discussed by Martin Folkes in 1724 and Henry Baker in 1739.


ms. Royal Society, no. 2137; L.6.38

Dobell's Little Animals (pp. 98-99) has a translation of Maria's accompanying letter from the Dutch:

Most excellent Sirs

Instantly upon the sad death of my beloved father Anthonij van Lewenhoek [sic] I took care to have this my loss made known to you by our reverenced and most learned pastor, Peterus Griebius [sic]; adding thereto, that after the space of six weeks would be sent to the noble and far famed Royal Society, at London, a little cabinet with magnifying-glasses, made of silver wrought out of the mineral by my dear departed father his very self; which same is now sent to Your Excellencies, even as my late father made it up, with six-and-twenty magnifying glasses in their little cases: truly in itself a poor present to so celebrated a Royal Society, but meant to betoken my father's deep respect for such a learned Society, whereof my most beloved and dear Father, of blessed memory, hath had the honour to have been a fellow member. Your most humble servitress now begs Your Excellencies, please to be so good as to let me have word whether this trifling gift is come safe into the hands of the far famous College, that I may rest content I have fulfilled my Father's wish. Wherewith, most famous Gentlemen, your most respectful Servitress and my father's Grief-stricken the Daughter now and hereafter will ever be and remains

Your humble Servant
Maria van Leeuwenhoek
Antoni's daughter

Delft, 4th October 1723
New Style