Wrote letter of 1680-05-13 (AB 58) to Members of the Royal Society

Date: 
May 13, 1680
Standard reference information
Cole's number: 
31a
AB/CL number: 
58
AB/CL volume: 
3

Text of the letter in the original Dutch and in English translation from Alle de Brieven. The Collected Letters at the DBNL - De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

The original manuscript on one quarto page, written and signed by Leeuwenhoek, is preserved along with both figures at the Royal Society (MS. 1885. L 1. 56.).


Three months after he was elected to membership in the Royal Society, Leeuwenhoek wrote this letter to thank the members. Until then, he had addressed the letters to Oldenburg and other officers of the Royal Society like Robert Hooke and Nehemiah Grew. This was the first letter that he addressed, appropriately, the the members in general. It wasn't until 1684 that he addressed another letter in that way. But once he began, he addressed another hundred letters to them over the following thirty years.

The text of the letter in full:

I was very surprised to hear that the Fellows of the Royal Society have been pleased to confer on me so great but unmerited an honour and dignity by admitting me as a Fellow of that honorable College; first from a letter written by the Honorary Secretary Thomas Gale and a few days after through the receipt of a sealed diploma. Both were full of expressions far exceeding my merits. However, while protesting, I declare myself extremely obliged to the Fellows of the said Society for the extraordinary favor bestowed on me. It is my fixed purpose and firm promise to exert all my powers and energy, my life long, to be still more worthy of the honor and favor conferred upon me.

Praying that the Almighty may mercifully protect you each and all, I am, Gentlemen,

As with one of the two other letters that he wrote that day, to Robert Hooke, this one ended with his given name spelled Antonj. He ended the third letter, to Thomas Gale, with Antoni. For both, he spelled his family name with a c: Leeuwenhoeck.

The letter from Gale, in Latrin, was transcribed but not translated by Heniger for his 1978 article on Leeuwenhoek's diploma. Gale's letter was in Latin, dated February 26 Old Style, March 7 New Style.