Wrote Letter 39 of 1683-09-17 (AB 76) to Francis Aston

September 17, 1683
Standard reference information
Cole's number: 
AB/CL number: 
AB/CL volume: 
Leeuwenhoek's summary

This letter was in the first batch that Gaesbeeck published.  It was the second or third letter in the first publication by Gaesbeeck, Onsigtbare geschapene waarheden.

Four years later in 1688, when Leeuwenhoek published Vervolg der Brieven, he preceded the letters with summaries of all of the previously published letters, including this one, in a section titled Register der Saaken in the voorgaende Brieven vervat (Register of topics contained in the foregoing letters). Later editions and the Latin translations included this summary.

From the summary below, it seems that Leeuwenhoek saw them as one volume under a common title: Ondervindingen en Beschouwingen. In 1684, he numbered each letter separately, but in 1694, he numbered them continuously. This letter survives in bundles with Letters 32 and 33, in later edition bound between them, other times bound last, as in the volume here titled Onsigtbare geschapene waarheden (Dobell #1). It is also sometimes found bound after Letter 37 in the volume here titled Eyerstok (Dobell #3).

39e. Missive, van den 12. September 1683. gedrukt by Daniel van Gaasbeek, onder den Tytel van Ondervindingen en beschouwingen. Handelende: Van de menigvuldige Dierkens aan de Tanden, geimagineerde wormen in 't Aangesight, gantsche bondelkens van hairkens in de neus en Aangesicht; dat het opperste huytje vande Mensch uyt schobbens bestaat.

39th Letter, of September 12, 1683 printed by Daniel van Gaasbeek, under the title Experiences and Considerations. Treating: of the abundant little animals on the teeth, imagined worms in the face, whole bundles of little hairs in the nose and face; that the outer skin of men consists of scales.

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 seventeen quarto pages, written and signed by Leeuwenhoek, is preserved at the Royal Society (MS. 1898. L 1. 69). The ten drawings are lost.

Plates from
Arcana Naturae Detecta

Figures A - G

Figures K - M


The original drawings are lost. The Dutch and Latin editions that Leeuwenhoek published used the same plates placed throughout the text. Two of those plates had more than one figure (see below; click to enlarge). They, as well as the scans on the left sidebar, came from the 1695 first edition of Arcana Naturae Detecta.

In the text, Leeuwenhoek does not say who drew these figures. However, they were well within Leeuwenhoek's skills, so he probably drew them. 

Fig. 1 appeared between Fig. G and Fig. H. It may have been a late addition or re-arrangement after the other figures had been engraved. It could also be the letter I, not the number 1, which was the decision made by the editors of Alle de Brieven / Collected Letters. However, in all of the Dutch and Latin editions printed under Leeuwenhoek's supervision, the typesetters used the same cast piece for the 1 in the page numbers that they used for this figure when they referred to it in the text. On the same pages, they several times used a capital letter I, so it was readily available. If it is indeed the letter I, it would be out of alphabetical order, coming before H, not after it.

Fig. G was not included in the first edition printed by Gaesbeeck in 1684. The edition published by Kronevelt ten years later had the same plate with Fig. G added (right; click to enlarge). That plate was used in all subsequent editions.