Five types

Leeuwenhoek's microscopes
number type
271 single lenses
23 aquatic microscopes
5 multiple, 12 lenses
172 interchangeable aquatic lenses
88 loupes

In 1933, W. H. van Seters published an article about Leeuwenhoek's microscopes. In it, he classified them into types and subtypes, each with an illustration and number. A summary table is on the left, a detailed table below. His numbers had three sources:

  • the 531 devices and lenses in the 1747 auction catalogue
  • the 26 silver single lens microscopes that Leeuwenhoek bequeathed to the Royal Society
  • note: Folkes 1724 erroneously says that he gave 2 to Queen Mary in the late 1680's 

The total is 559 devices and lenses. Leeuwenhoek made them over fifty years, averaging almost one per month. Of course, he made more than 559. Some broke, or their screws wore down, or he lost them. He may have given away more than he noted.

The image below is taken from van Seters' article. It has a drawing of each type, counting the silver and brass separately. The top row has the microscopes made according to the classic design of gold, silver, and brass. The lower rows have what van Seters called the aquatic microscopes, as well as the loupes (88) and aquatic lenses (172).

The right sidebar has links to more information about all of these types. The table below breaks the five types into subtypes grouped by their metal.

Five Types
type number   metal number 
aquatic 23      
    fish viewers brass 2
    oyster viewers silver 11
    eel viewers silver 3
      silver and brass 1
      brass 6
aquatic lenses 172   brass  
loupes 88   brass  
multiple lenses 5      
    two lenses silver 2
      silver and brass 1
    three lenses silver 1
      brass 1
single lens 271      
      gold 3
      silver 162/4?
      silver, 2 objects 6
      silver and brass 3
      brass 95
Total 559

Today, only a dozen are accounted for. What happened to them? (See right sidebar menu.)