Wrote Letter 39 of 1683-09-17 (AB 76) to Francis Aston about saliva and bacteria in tartar, nasal hairs and blackheads, skin, fish scales, pores, and calluses

September 17, 1683
Standard reference information
Cole's number: 
AB/CL number: 
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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.