van Leeuwenhoek's Neighborhood
These detailed maps of van Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood come from the two most famous maps of Delft from the 1600's.
The roof of van Leeuwenhoek's house is in third one in from the lower left corner of the Bleyswyck map. The house is almost in the center of the Blaeu map. The gray canal going across the middle has bridges over it. The fifth bridge from the right, the Warmoesbrugge, is the widest bridge and is part of an open square, the Cameretten over the Voldersgracht, both clearly labeled in Bleyswyck's map. Warmoes is old-fashioned Dutch for vegetables.
Van Leeuwenhoek's house, Het Gouden Hoofd, the Golden Head, was along that canal, the second one in from the lower left corner of the Cameretten. Across the canal was the Vismarkt, the ancient fish market, and the Vleeshal, the newly constructed (1650) meat market.
The area in the top left of the Blaeu map, indeed that whole corner of Delft, was destroyed in the Delft Explosion, also known as the Delft Thunderclap, when stored gunpowder exploded, killing more than a hundred. It occurred on October 12, 1654, just ten weeks after van Leeuwenhoek moved back to Delft, following his apprenticeship in Amsterdam, and married Barbara de Meij.
The Nieuwe Kerk, where van Leeuwenhoek and Vermeer were baptized, is near the top center of the Blaeu map. The largest, tallest building in Delft, it was finished before 1500. At the bottom right corner of the church, where the single row of trees across the front meets the double row of trees alongside the church, is a bridge. Just over that bridge on the Oude Langendijk is the house of Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law. Vermeer moved his growing family there about the time van Leeuwenhoek returned from Amsterdam.
The Markt is the largest white open area on the Blaeu map. On the other side of it, across from the Nieuwe Kerk, is the Stadhuis, city hall, built just before van Leeuwenhoek was born. There he earned his sinecure after 1660 as camerbewaarder, or chamberlain. On the Bleyswyck map, the corner of the Stadhuis is the small cross-hatched rectangle in the top right corner, giving an idea of how close van Leeuwenhoek lived.
Directly below the Stadhuis on the Blaeu map is the Waag (detail of facade below), the weighing house built just before van Leeuwenhoek was born and where he served as wijnroeier (wine gauger) after 1679. The right to have a weighing house and collect excise taxes locally was one of the first city rights that Delft got in the 1200's.
In the lower left of the Blaeu map is the Oude Kerk (before 1250), where van Leeuwenhoek and Vermeer are buried. It is across the Oude Delft canal from the Prinsenhof, a Middle Ages monastery; on Blaeu's map, it has the blue walls. There, William of Orange, aka William the Silent, was assassinated in 1584, the galvanizing moment in Dutch history.
The map of van Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood above is a detail taken from this map of Delft by Joan Blaeu. It was published in Amsterdam in 1649, one year after the peace of Munster and the Spanish acknowledgement of the Dutch Republic.
The map, according to the conventions of the time, is laid out for the most balanced design. North is toward the top left corner, not straight up.
The canal off the left is the Vliet that connected Delft to Leiden, twelve miles north. Van Leeuwenhoek may well have traveled that canal to go to school in Warmond and to his apprenticeship in Amsterdam.
The canal off the right, the Delftse Schie, connects Delft eight miles to Delftshaven, the harbor on the Maas River, now Rotterdam, and thus out to the North Sea.
Note that Delft had only six gates to pass over the outer moat. Only one remains, the Oostpoort in the top right corner.
Warmond (Warmont) is at the top, about two miles north of Leiden, and Benthuizen is at the very bottom right, about nine miles northeast of Delft. Note that for maps of the time, the convention of north at the top was not yet established.
Today, Warmond is a village of about five thousand people. According to Reinier Boitet who in 1729 expanded Bleyswyck's 1667 Beschryving der stadt Delft (Description of the City of Delft), van Leeuwenhoek was sent to school there after his mother remarried in 1640. Warmond has only a couple of buildings, including the home of painter Jan Steen, that date from van Leeuwenhoek's youth, when it was much smaller than it is today.
Benthuizen has fewer residents today than Warmond. The oldest structure seems to be the Molen de Haas, a grist mill built more than a century after van Leeuwenhoek lived there. According to Boitet, he lived there with an uncle, who was an attorney and town clerk, between his time in Warmond and his apprenticeship in Amsterdam beginning at age 16 in 1648.
On the map, the straight black lines are raised dikes between the drained fields. By the 17th century, van Leeuwenhoek's lifetime, the land in South Holland had been managed for centuries by the Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland. This water control board managed the water barriers (dikes), the waterways (canals), the water levels, and the water quality. It did not manage the water supply for human use. The ancient water boards, the oldest forms of local government in the Netherlands, set the stage for the decentralized Dutch Republic's astounding success in its Golden Age.
Comparing these old maps to what you see today on Google Earth reveals almost exactly the same pattern. In other words, other than pavement poured on the tops of many dikes for auto and bike traffic, the South Holland countryside hasn't changed much in the last 400 years. It was crowded and the land was all accounted for then; it's the same now.
Spread over four continents with colonies strategically placed on the sailing routes between the world's oceans, the Dutch Empire dominated global commerce during the second half of the 17th century. But the Dutch in the Golden Age were traders, not settlers. The orange dots are trading posts.
The lighter green areas were territories controlled by the VOC: Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie / United East Indian Company).
the southern tip of Africa - Cape Colony (1652)
the southern tip of India - Malacca, Colombo, Ceylon, Nagappattinam, Cranganore, and Cochin (1641-1662)
Indonesia - the Dutch East Indies (1627) and stretching north to China and Japan
The darker green areas are the territories controlled by the GWIC: Dutch West India Company (Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie or GWIC / Chartered West India Company).
New Netherlands area, which included New Amsterdam
the Netherlands Antilles, several other Caribbean islands, Suriname and Guyana
Dutch Brazil, New Holland (capital Mauritsstad, present-day Recife), taking over Portuguese possessions in Brazil (1630 - 1654)
In Africa, trading posts on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and briefly in Angola
Delft was one of the dozen cities that had chambers of the VOC (Dutch East India Company).
A hundred and fifty years after Columbus and da Gama widened the Europeans' world, the map makers had a clearer vision of the coastlines than of interiors, of latitude than longitude.
The sailors of the Dutch VOC brought back an overwhelming amount of new information about the world's geography, flora, and fauna.
Leeuwenhoek received samples to examine from as far away as the Dutch East Indies from someone who had read his collected letters there.
If you need only a quick look, these maps, mostly published during van Leeuwenhoek's lifetime, will be useful.
to maps lower on this page
Neighborhood | Delft | South Holland
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Van Leeuwenhoek's Neighborhood
Detail of van Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood
from Bleyswyck's map of Delft
Looking northeast across the heart of Delft in the mid-1600's.
Detail from Blaeu's map of Delft.
The map of van Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood is a detail of this
map of Delft published by Blaeu in the mid 1600's.
Leiden and Warmond
Delft and Benthuizen
Blaeu's maps of 1645
Joannes Janssonius's 1658 map
of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands
(or "of the Seven United Provinces")
(Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden/Provinciën)
At the top of the map, Friesland is purple and, to its right, going clockwise, Groningen is green. Under them, Overijssel is orange. Moving south under the Zuider Zee, Gelderland is green and Utrecht is purple. Holland is orange, along the North Sea. The islands in the southwest, Zeeland, are green. Holland, where van Leeuwenhoek lived in Delft, had, by far, the most people and wealth.
Detail from Blaeu's Toonneel des Aerdrijcx (Aerdrycks), ofte Nieuwe Atlas
Best of the Web
What Was Where. This interactive map of the Netherlands connects to a wealth of historical and geographical data, including old maps.
By searching through time and place you draw on 750,000 maps and images ranging from Joan Blaeu's 1650 maps to the RAF's aerial photos from the 1940's. For maps of the Dutch Golden Age (1600's), this site uses the zoomable scans from the Leiden Regional Archive.
Click thumbs to enlarge. Click- drag to move. Open several.
A Dutch gracht is a brick-lined canal within a city, about two meters deep. The inner city of Delft has miles of grachten like this one; it is named after the section of the street that lines it. So this section is the Hippolytusbuurt, between the Voorstraat (behind the picture taker) and the Wijnhaven (past the Warmoes bridge) sections of the gracht. The water flows in a southeasterly direction toward the Warmoesbrug along the front of van Leeuwenhoek's house, Het Gouden Hoofd, the Golden Head. Long gone, it was on the west (right) hand side just two houses before the bridge.
One of the Dutch Republic's key competitive advantages was the intercity transportation system. All the canals were connected to each other, and all the towns were built on canals. Companies scheduled frequent, dependable and affordable trips by trekschuit, a passenger barge towed along a path (now often bicycle paths) by either horses or people. The comfortable, smooth ride on the water between cities only ten and fifteen miles apart made bumpy, muddy horse and carriage traffic something that happened in less advanced countries.
The Delft-Leiden trekschuiten were carrying 200,000 paying passengers a year in 1660. In no other county in Europe could people and goods, and most importantly, information, move so freely.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
Hendrick van Vliet (1611-1675)
Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, from beneath the Organ Loft at the Western Entrance
Oil on canvas, 1662
The late Gothic cruciform basilica of the Nieuwe Kerk
on the Markt was built during the 1400's, and rebuilt and restored several times since. Van Leeuwenhoek and Vermeer were baptized here. The main attraction is the mausoleum of Prince William of Orange (William the Silent, Willem de Zwijger), which was completed before van Leeuwenhoek's birth. The church's tower is the second tallest in the Netherlands.
Oude Kerk (Old Church)
Hendrick Van Vliet (1611-1675)
The Old Church at Delft with the Tomb of Admiral Tromp
oil on canvas, 1658
Originally known as St Hippolyte, the Gothic Oude Kerk
, the oldest parish church in the city, was built between 1250 and 1350. Subsidence and re-building have caused the 75-meter high Gothic tower to lean 2 meters off center. It is topped by turrets that were re-built more vertically, giving it a cock-eyed look.
Both van Leeuwenhoek (1723) and Vermeer (1675) are buried in the Oude Kerk, joining war of independence heroes Piet Hein (1629) and Maarten Tromp (1653) and van Leeuwenhoek's mentor Regnier de Graaf (1674).
The mausoleum of van Leeuwenhoek, commissioned by his daughter Maria, is around the corner in the tower wall, on the north side. The poem chiseled in the wall was written by Huibert Corneliszoon Poot
Here rests Antony van Leeuwenhoek having reached the age of 90 years, 10 months and two days. O stroller, be respectful of great old age and wonderful gifts. Thus tread respectfully here. Here in Leeuwenhoek lies buried eternal science.
Other than the Old and New churches, the Stadhuis, or Town Hall
, was the most impressive building in van Leeuwenhoek's Delft.
Originally built in 1200, it survived expansions and renovations in the 1500s and fires in 1536 and 1618. In its present Dutch Renaissance style form, it was built in 1618-1620 after a design by Hendrick de Keyser.
Art historian Kees Kaldenbach has a terrific web about Vermeer
, who lived in Delft with van Leeuwenhoek. Kaldenbach's page on the Stadhuis
draws from Van Bleyswyck's 1667 Description of Delft.
The Oostpoort or Eastern Gate was built around 1400. Its towers were added a hundred years later. Unusual in that it provides entry for traffic by both land and water, it is the only remaining of the six city gates during van Leeuwenhoek's time. This view is from in the city looking out through the gate.
William I, Prince of Orange (1533—1584), aka William the Silent
(Willem de Zwijger) and William of Orange (Willem van Oranje
), was the influential and politically clever Protestant leader of the Dutch revolt. His first battle in 1568 marked the beginning of the Dutch Republic and of the Eighty Years' War to convince Spain to give up its claim to the seven united provinces. The Orange name comes from the original Orange-Vaucluse home in southern France of William's cousin, Rene of Chalon, who died childless. William, it turned out, was next of kin.
In 1584, Catholic Frenchman Balthasar Gérard
, loyal to the Spanish king, assassinated William at his home in the Prinsenhof, an old monastery in Delft across the canal from the Oude Kerk. The two bullet holes remain in the wall near the bottom of the stairs that Willem was walking down to receive someone he thought was a peaceful emissary.
William became known as the Vader des Vaderlands, Father of the Fatherland. The Dutch national anthem, the world's oldest, Het Wilhelmus, was written a decade before William's death to honor, in fifteen verses, his stand against the Spanish king.
In this monastery from the Middle Ages, Balthasar Gérard shot and killed Willem van Oranje. It is across the Oude Delft canal from the Oude Kerk, its clock tower rising in the background.
or Prince's Court is today the city historical museum.
When he was 8, van Leeuwenhoek's father died and his mother remarried. Antony was sent to school in Warmond, a village just north of Leiden. It is still a village, but few buildings remain from van Leeuwenhoek's time. Jan Steen (1626-1679), the painter, lived in this house from 1656-1660.
According to Boitet's Description of the Town of Delft (1729), van Leeuwenhoek's mother Grietje van den Berch had an uncle, Cornelis Jaconsz. van den Berch, who was Sheriff and Bailiff in Benthuizen, a village just north of Delft. Between his stays in Warmond and Amsterdam, van Leeuwenhoek lived for a short time with uncle Cornelis, perhaps to learn law.
Today, nothing remains in Benthuizen from those days, but this engraving was made during the 17th century.
Delfshaven (Delft Harbor)
Joan Blaeu's map of Delft's harbor. As usual, it is oriented to look good; north is left, east is top. North-at-the-top was not yet the convention among map makers.
Because Delft had one of only seven Dutch East India Company offices, it needed a shipyard and reliable deep-water harbor, and it had one in Delfshaven. Dug in the late 1300's, the Delfshavense Schie gave the city of Delft a connection to the Maas (Meuse) River 8 miles (13 km) to the southeast. Delft's prosperity was built on raw materials and finished goods (textiles, ceramics) that flowed in and out of Delfshaven.
VOC city Batavia
The Castle of Batavia, seen from West Kali Besar
Oil on canvas, c. 1656-58
Formed in 1602, the Dutch East India Company, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) en
became the first multinational corporation in the world and the first company to issue stock. The VOC's quasi-governmental powers let it negotiate treaties, coin money, and wage war.
In 1619 the VOC's governor, Jan Coen, captured the port of Jacatra. First, he built a castle, seen in the background of this painting with VOC administrative offices behind it built in the style of Dutch homes back in the Republic. Around it, along the Ciliwung, also known as Kali Besar ('Great River') rose the new town of Batavia.
The market scene in the painting shows people from Java, China, Bengal and Europe. This painting hung over the mantelpiece in the VOC's board room in Amsterdam.
Dutch West India Company's trading territory
Title: Insulae Americae in Oceano Septentrionali, cum terris adjacentibus.
This nautical chart for navigating the eastern coast of the Americas from Newfoundland through the equator was made by Willem Janszoon Blaeu around 1634 for the confidential use of the Dutch West India Company en
. It is apparently the earliest chart of the region on the Mercator projection.
The thumbnail shows Manhattan.
Map of New Netherlands, based on a manuscript map by
Adriaen van der Donck
The Dutch claimed much of what is now New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, southern New York and western Connecticut and Massachusetts. Long Island is in pink, with the Hudson River running straight north from Long Island's western end.
The coast is well mapped, but the accuracy of the details of the interior decreases as the distance from the ocean increases.
Before van Leeuwenhoek joined them in 1723, Piet Hein and Maarten Tromp, naval heroes from the Eighty Years' War for Dutch independence, were the most famous people from Delft honored with burial in the Oude Kerk.
Piet Hein (or Pieter Pietersen Heyn) (1577–1629) en
was a vice-admiral of the new Dutch West India Company (WIC). In 1628 in the Caribbean, he captured a Spanish treasure fleet loaded with silver, the silver-vloot
. No blood was shed, the WIC investors became rich, the Dutch government was able to finance another eight months of the war with Spain, and Piet Hein was promoted to command the whole Dutch fleet.
When he died just a year later from cannon fire during his first battle as commander, he became a folk hero.
Piet Hein's flag officer was young Maarten Tromp (1598-1653) en
, who commanded the Dutch fleet after 1637.
In 1639, at the Battle of the Downs, his dozen or so ships defeated a much larger Spanish fleet (24,000 soldiers and sailors) bound for Flanders by using the line of battle technique for the first time in European waters. Marking the end of Spanish naval power, this battle led to the final treaty with Spain in 1648.
Tromp spent the rest of his career patrolling the Dutch coast, keeping it safe for the Dutch commercial fleet, and he was killed in battle during the First Anglo-Dutch War.
Sources of the maps
The upper map is a detail from a wall map of Delft prepared by surveyor Jacob Spoors under the direction of Dirck Evertsz. Van Bleyswyck 1675 - 1678. It is zoomable at the image bank of the Dutch national archive.
The lower map of van Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood as well as the full map of Delft comes from Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, published in Amsterdam, 1649. It was the largest and most expensive book published in the seventeenth century.
Hi-res zoomable scan of Blaeu's Delft map at Swaen.com, Paulus Swaen's old Map auction and galleries.
Map of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (or Provinces) (Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden/Provinciën) in 1658 by Joannes Janssonius, part of his collection Belgii Foederati Nova Descriptio.
By zooming in on the large version of this map available at Wikimedia Commons, you get a good sense of the network of navigable canals that crisscrossed Holland and provided the mobility for goods and labor, enabling the Republic to out-perform the rest of the world economically.
The map comes from Willem and Johannes Blaeu.
It is available at the Leiden Regional Archive
The Leiden Regional Archive has digitized Blaeu's Atlas Toonneel des Aardrijcx of 1649, which was the basis of his 11-volume masterwork Atlas Maior, 1672, the largest and most expensive book published in the seventeenth century. The web is in Dutch only; on the bottom left, click on Bekijk de atlassen in de viewer (look at the atlases in the viewer).
Published in Amsterdam between 1649 and 1655 in 6 volumes, the Atlas Tooneel covered the whole known world, volume I: World, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Germany and Holland; II: France, Africa, Asia and the Americas; III: Italy and Greece; IV: England and Wales; V: Scotland and Ireland; VI: China and Japan.