Cornelis Spiering wrote Letter L-529 in May 1716 to Leeuwenhoek about an accident in which a large carp from his pond died; encloses some scales

May 1, 1716

Collected Letter volume: 20

This letter is known only by reference in Leeuwenhoek’s reply.

In this letter, Cornelis Spiering tells Leeuwenhoek about an accident in which a large carp from his pond died. He gives the length and girth measurements of the carp and encloses some scales with his letter.

Leeuwenhoek usually responded promptly to letters, so it is likely that Cornelis Spiering van Spieringshoek (1663-1745) wrote this letter in May 1716 or shortly before. This is the only known exchange of letters between Leeuwenhoek and Spiering, who lived in Leeuwenhoek’s neighborhood. He had worked with Leeuwenhoek in Delft’s city hall in his role as member of the Veertigraad (city council) after 1691 and as magistrate from 1696-1703 and again from 1708-1710. After this exchange of letters, Spiering served as a mayor of Delft for three years, 1717, 1718, and 1724.

It is not clear whether the pond was in the back of Spiering’s house on the Westsingelgracht or in a garden outside the walls of the city.


Letter L-533 of 22 May 1716 to Cornelis Spiering

Your Honour has been so kind, dear sir, as to send to me some scales of a carp, which was of an exceptionally large size; which carp was swimming in the pond of Your Honour, and was so tame that it would almost have taken the food it was given out of one’s hand; and during a freeze, when the gardener was cutting a hole in the ice in order, as it were, to give air to the fishes, then this carp came up to the hole; and accidentally the gardener cut into the head of the carp, from which it died.

Your Honour says that this carp had a length of 1 5/8 yards, which is, according to the measure of Rhineland and Delfland, 42 1/2 inches; and its girth was 33 1/4 inches; so that its girth was in proportion larger than its length. I have observed these scales many times when still whole through the magnifying glass; and I have repeatedly concluded that the carp was more than thirty years old.