Where did he work?

Where was the shop?

Where did he make the magnifying glasses and observe the specimens?

In the pattern most common before the Industrial Revolution separated home from the workplace, Leeuwenhoek lived over his shop. As he abandoned the retail trade and turned to science, the shop on the ground floor and the office on the floor above were where he made and looked through his lenses and where he managed the specimens and his records and wrote his letters. Two possibilities for the shop:

  • daughter Maria maintained the shop to the end of her life, which would explain the great quantity of household goods in the estate inventory
  • the old shop was converted into a room to receive visitors, which would explain the furniture and paintings that the inventory listed in that room

In Letter 18 (AB 26) of October 10, 1676, Leeuwenhoek referred to his glasses, specimens, and lathe in his voor camer, or front room, and in his comptoir, which would have been the office where he kept his money and business records.

Note, that my Study stands toward the North east, in my front room, and is very close joyned together with Wainscot, having no other opening than one hole of an inch and a half broad, and 8 inches long, through which the wooden spring of my lathe passes towards the street furnisht with 4 windows, of which the two lowermost open inwards, and by night are closed with two wooden Shuts

The notes in Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters, vol. 2, pp. 78, 79, indicate that this front room and office were on the ground floor. While it makes sense that the customers entered only the store, which would be on the ground floor, there was no need for them to enter the office, which could have been on the ground floor or one of the upper floors.

Turning to the room-by-room inventory of the house after daughter Maria's death, the ground floor had three rooms toward the front:

  • vestibule or front room (voorhuijs) -- Customers entered here.
  • inner room (binnekamer) -- This room would have been the store.
  • back room (agterkamer)

Next in the inventory of household goods came the two kitchens on the ground floor --

  • front kitchen (voorste keuken)
  • back kitchen (agterkeuken)

-- followed by the storage places, the shed in the back and the cellar. Then the inventory came to the upper floor, using the same words for the rooms that Leeuwenhoek used in the letter of October 9, 1676.

  • front room (voorkamer)
  • office/study (comptoirtje)
  • back room (agterkamer)

Where did they sleep?

A house like the Gulden Hoofd built in the late 1500's had sleeping compartments. The image on the right is not Leeuwenhoek's, but it gives an idea of what the upper floor of his house may well have looked like. This view would be in the front room (voorkamer) looking past the sleeping compartment into the office/study (comptoirtje).