The Leeuwenhoek name: How to spell it

 

In the 1600's, spelling was not standardized. Many of the names in the documents discussed on this web have at least two spellings, sometimes in the same document. The Delft baptism, marriage, and burial records have half-a-dozen different combinations of Leeuwenhoek's name, three variants of his first name and three of the family nam.

  • Thonis - his baptism (see below left, click for large version. Painter Jan Vermeer is on second entry from top. See also detail below) on November 4, 1632
  • Anthoni Leeuwenhouck - his first marriage in 1654
  • Anthonij Leeuwenhouck - his children's burials in 1655 and 1658
  • Anthonij Leeuwenhoeck - his second marriage, registered on January 10, 1671, in Delft
  • Anthony Leeuwenhoeck - his second wedding on January 25, 1671, in Pijnacker, a village near Delft
  • Antoni van Leeuwenhoek - his self-publications after the mid-1680's
  • Anthonij van Leeuwenhoek - his burial, registered on August 31, 1723
The English Wikipedia spells it Antonie; the Dutch Wikipedia spells it Antoni. The spelling I use throughout this web, Antony, is the one he used for his self-publications with the final letter as "y" instead of the Dutch long "i". This is also the spelling that Dobell used in his 1932 biography.
 
In the titles and the tables of contents of the hundred and some letters published in Philosophical Transactions over fifty years, Leeuwenhoek's last name is spelled twenty-one different ways. Dobell lists 19 of them, but he missed a few.
Leenwenhoek
Leeuenhoek
Leeuwenhock
Leeuwenhoeck
Leeuwenhoecks
Leeuwenhoeek
Leeuwenhoek 
Leeuwenkoek
Leevvenhoeck
Leewenhoeck
Leewenhoecks
Leewenhoek
Leewenhook
Leewnenhoek
Leewuenhoek
Leuvenhook
Leuwenhock
Leuwenhoeck
Leuwenhoek
Lewenhock
Lewenhoeck
Lewenhoek
Lewen-Hoek
Lewuenhocck
Lewuenhoek
The four most common, in descending order:
  • Leeuwenhoek
  • Leewenhoeck
  • Leuwenhoek
  • Leeuwenhoec

In Dutch, this name has two parts. The Leeuwen part means lions, which was the dominant image (see right) in the coat of arms (wapenschild) of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, established in 1581. Note the seven arrows, one for each province.

Leeuwenhoek and other Dutch people rarely varied the spelling in the first part of the name. The English, as you can see from the list above, didn't treat the leeuwen with the same reverence.
 
For the Dutch people, as well as the English, the second part of the name was the problem. Hexham's dictionary of 1648 spells it hoeck. Sewel's dictionary of 1735 spells it hoek.

Detail from baptism record

 
Month November 1632
4: child Thonis, father Philips Thonisz, mother Grietge
Jacobs, witnesses Thonis Philipsz, Huijch Thonisz,
Magdalena and Catarina Jacobsdr
 
This fluid situation, along with variant spellings, provides a special challenge for modern database searches. For 17th century Dutch sources, it is best to search with a wildcard: leeuwen* or, if possible l*wen*. For 17th century English sources, you just have to try multiple spellings to make sure you haven't missed something.

The Google Ngram chart below illustrates this situation by showing the relative frequency of only four different spellings of Leeuwenhoek's name in English publications during his lifetime.