Where Leeuwenhoek's biographers say he lived

Leeuwenhoek's biographers agree: He lived for almost seventy years on the Hippolytusbuurt, second house in from the corner of the Nieuwstraat, directly across the gracht from the Vismarkt. On the 1832 kadaster map, the property was labeled C0154 but was later combined with C1053, as shown on the map below.

Primary Sources

The Historisch GIS Delft shows data from the 1585-1648 housing protocol (OAD inv. 731). For C0154 ( fol. 309r2, v1), it lists four owners:

  • Huych Gijsbrechts, peddler
  • Stoffel Huygens van der Schie
  • Pouwels van Crombrugge
  • Frans Leenders van Helden, furworker

It does not list Leeuwenhoek as being owner or resident of C0154 or of any of the parcels running along west side of the Hipplytusbuurt. It does give him as co-owner with Carel Serval of a property around the corner on the Nieuwstraat.

Nevertheless, from the archive of notary Andries Bogaert, we know that the land and house sold to Antony on February 2, 1655 (ONA inv. 1888. Also sale letter 5r075 on fol. 936v2 and 4f259v on fol. 936r1).

Antony bequeathed it to his daughter Maria, whose estate sold it on August 25, 1745 (ONA inv. 2791 fol. 39). The building was destroyed in the early 20th century. Currently, it is Hippolytusbuurt 1, occupied until early 2015 by a clothing store with apartments above, shown in the photo on the right.


Secondary Sources

Half a dozen biographers have dealt with the primary sources.

Boitet (1727, Beschrijving) says nothing about where in Delft Leeuwenhoek lived.

Haaxman (1875, De Ontdekker der Infusorien, p. 15) (nl - all translations mine) says that Leeuwenhoek lived on the Botersteeg.

The house where Leeuwenhoek lived still exists and is found on the corner of the Botersteeg and the Oude Delft, district 4, no 455, but it is visibly modernized on the front side, while the Botersteeg side and back side have retained their appearance from the old days. On the Boterbrug side (Oude Delft) one still finds as a special feature an astrolab attached to the iron gate.

Bouricius (1924, ... zijn dochter) (nl), cited by Dobell and Schierbeek, says that Leeuwenhoek lived on the west side, facing east, but does not specify the street.

He rose early, which with a view to his house also was most advantageous, because the facade is oriented to the East.

Bouricius (1925, ... de Delftsche natuuronderzoeker) (nl), also cited by Dobell and Schierbeek, says that it was near the Camaretten end of the Hippolytusbuurt.

Leeuwenhoek bought a house on the Hippolytusbuurt opposite the Vischmarkt.

Schierbeek (1927, Nieuws uit het leven) (nl), cited by Dobell, cites the two Bouricius articles above from 1924 and 1925.

He lived then on the Hippolytusbuurt, second house from the Nieuwstraat and it was called: the Gouden Hoofd (Golden Head). Previously it was assumed, that his house stood on the Oude Delft, corner Boterbrug. Dr. Bouricius, however, was able to show, that this is incorrect.

Schierbeek (1929) (nl), cited by Dobell, relates information about Leeuwenhoek as surveyor and his grave and nothing about the house.

Dobell (1932, Little Animals, p. 29), cites Schierbeek and both Bouricius articles.

At about this date Leeuwenhoek bought a house and shop in Delft, and set up in business as a draper. For these premises he paid altogether —- including interest on the money, which he had to borrow —- 5000 florins (1). His house was situated (2) in a street still called the Hippolytusbuurt .... According to Bouricius, to whom the identification of the site is due, it was the second one from the Nieuwstraat ... and was called " The Golden Head" (Het Gouden Hoofd).

(1) Cf. Schierbeek (1929a). The facts were ascertained by the late Mr Bouricius.
(2) This was forgotten until quite recently, when it was rediscovered by Morre (1919) and Bouricius (1924).

Unfortunately, neither of the citations, Morre or Bouricius, mentions the house. Further on (p. 340), Dobell notes:

But more recent research into the town archives -- made by a later and more critical archivist, the late Mr L. G. N. Bouricius -- has proved that Leeuwenhoek never lived on the spot where his modern bronze effigy with its false inscription now hangs. His real residence was in a neighbouring street —- the Hippolytusbuurt -- and has long since vanished without trace.

Beydals (1933, Twee Testamenten) (nl) indicated that she had access to the original documents.

... the deed of purchase of the house on the Hippolytusbuurt in Delft, with some information about the residence of Leeuwenhoeck from 1654 until his death. ...

On Monday, June 26, 1719 father and daughter made their way from their home on the west side of the Hippolytusbuurt to the notary.

Schierbeek (1950, Leven en Werken, p. 16) (nl) cites his own 1927 article, which cites Bouricius.

He bought a house in the Hippolytusbuurt, 2nd house from the Nieuwstraat. The house cost f 5000. - There remained a mortgage of f 4000. -. He was allowed to pay not with cash, but also in part with his goods. The house was called: Het Gouden Hoofd.

Roseboom (1960, Measuring the Invisible World, p. 19) adds "paid either in money or in goods", which indicates that she saw a document.

Leeuwenhoek, after his return to Delft and his marriage on July 29th, 1654, carried on a trade in cloth and haberdashery .... The fact that Leeuwenhoek was in trade in Delft is also suggested by the conditions of mortgage payment on the house which he purchased for five thousand guilders. The interest on the mortgage (of four thousand guilders) could be paid either in money or in goods. The house was named 'The Golden Head' and was on the Hippolytusbuurt canal.

Van den Burg and Leeuwenhoek (1995, Leeuwenhoek) (nl) add the name of the previous owner, but no reference.

He bought the house on the west side of the Hippolytusbuurt from apothecary Johan Lieftingh. This house, or which he had to borrow 5,000 guilders, was named "Het Gouden Hoofd".

This is the first mention of Johan Lieftingh (1604-1684), an apothecary, as noted on several records. He was living on the Hipolytusbuurt when he married Sophia de Salengre in 1928, who died two years later. He was still living on the Hippolytusbuurt when, listed as Jan Kestting, he married Anna van der Mast in 1636. Their daughter Sophia was baptized in 1637. When she married Henri D'Acquet, a medical doctor from 's-Gravenhage, in May 1658, she is recorded in the marriage register as living on the Wijnstraat, what is now Wijnhaven 15, only eight properties along the same gracht south of the house on the Hippolytusbuurt.

Van den Burg and Leeuwenhoek also note AvL's partial ownership of parcel C151 (O.R.A. 281-283, bladz. 936v2, verkoopbrief 5r075), now Nieuwstraat 18, a store with an apartment above. Carel Serval (d. 1726), the other owner, was a jeweller, according to the burial record of an infant child in 1705 (DTB Delft inv. 46).

Antoni Leeuwenhoek and Carel Serval buy on May 8, 1708 together with the heirs of Annetje Pieters van der Vis, widow of Pieter Jans Hofland, a house and yard on the north side of the Nieuwstraat in Delft, bordering on the east Pieter van der Wild and on the west said Carel Serval, extending from the street to the rear of the premises, previously having belonged the widow of mayor Joost van Lodesteijn and now belonging to said Antoni Leeuwenhoek. The sale price is 550 guilders in cash. Antoni takes the rear part of the purchased house and Carel Serval does this with the front part. The remaining interest on the house is borne by Carel Serval.

Achter de Gevels van Delft, the terrific web site of the city archive, has a page on Hippolytusbuurt 1.