Front room and office/laboratory on upper floor

14 Front room (voorkamer)


length: 5.28 m (17 feet)

width: 3.36 m (11 feet)

size: 17.75 square meters (95 square feet)

The front room had a door or at least doorway to Leeuwenhoek's office and lap and a door to the landing. It also had a fireplace with six Delft blue plates in front of the chimney and, overlooking the Hippolytusbuurt, a window. It was probably the standard cross-frame (kruiskozijn) window with shutters on the outside (buitenluiken) of the lower half. In Letter 19 of 1677-03-23 (AB 31) to Henry Oldenburg, Leeuwenhoek wrote that there was always a fire in his room in the cold season.

After I had sent away my former Letter, I gave not over observing the animalcula in water; examining also distilled and boiled Waters. Last Winter, when the severe cold had killed [all] the little Creatures, observing the water thawed by the warmth of [the fire and after it had stood in my bedroom which was heated the whole day].

The inventory list below notes a bed with a curtain (ledikant met behangsel), so this room was probably where Leeuwenhoek slept. The room was not very large, but given the tiny lab/office next to it, Leeuwenhoek's work may well have overflowed into his bedroom, especially after his second wife died in 1696. With the fireplace, it would have been the warmer of the two rooms.

In the room, the notaries found four chairs, one of them smaller than the others. Four bowls of Delft blue, two of them with feet, were also there, perhaps on the chests.

On the walls were a mirror and two dozen paintings. Ten were described as landscapes or scenes from nature. One was a tronie, a small portrait of a usually anonymous person expressing an emotion, sometimes comically. One was a family portait, though the family was not specified. Two were called "old head" (oude kop), leaving unclear whether it was the head that was old, or the painting, and whether it was more tronie or portrait. The rest are listed without any indication of the subject matter, though three of them were octagonal in shape and seven were framed prints.

There were also a chest with clothes and a chest of drawers, also with clothes. The notaries noted that those two had been brought there from other rooms.

Most intriguingly, the room had a bookcase with "some books" (enige boeken). Perhaps some of the books that Leeuwenhoek mentioned in his letters were in this bookcase. Would that the notaries had written down a title or two! Note under What happened? below that these books may have been auctioned two years after this inventory was made.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household goods and paintings on pages 32 (right; click to enlarge). In the Dutch phrase op de voorkamer, literally on the front room, the op indicated that the room was above the ground floor.

Household goods in the front room (op de voorkamer)

An old-fashioned chest (kist) and in it some clothing, brought from another room

3 chairs (stoelen)

A bed (ledikant) with 1 blue curtain (behangsel)

An old-fashioned polished chest of drawers (kas), therein some clothing, chintz, as others brought from another room

A small polished chest (kisje)

A small chair (stoeltje)

A small mirror (spiegeltje)

6 Delft plates (Delfse schotels) in front of the chimney (schoorsteen)

2 Delft bowls (Delfse kommenen)

2 ditto, with feet (potjes)

A bookcase (boekkasje) with some books

Paintings in the front room (schilderijen op de voorkamer)

A large landscape, a ditto

An old tronie

3 landscapes (landschappen) with gilded (vergulde) frames

1 painting with 3 pictures or images (beelden)

1 old head (oude kop), 1 ditto

1 cormorant (koetje), 2 ships (scheepjes)

2 octagonal paintings

1 small ditto octagonal

7 prints in frames (prentjes in lijstjes)

A family portrait

A landscape

15 Laboratory/office (comtoirtje)


length: 5.28 m (17 feet)

width: 1.68 m (5.5 feet)

size: 8.8 square meters (95 square feet)

This was a tiny room, about the width and two-and-a-half times the length of a medium-sized mattress today. In it, Leeuwenhoek did the bulk of his work, making microscopes, observing specimens, and writing letters. At one end was a built-in bed, a sleeping compartment, not included in the dimensions above. At the other end was a cross-frame window with shutters on the lower half, matching the window in the front room. It had a slit in the wall that it shared with the front room so that Leeuwenhoek's spring-pole lathe had space to move back and forth.

The boxes with papers that the notaries found could have contained the unpublished letters noted in the catalog when his microscopes were auctioned in 1747.

In the estate of the late Miss Maria van Leeuwenhoek were found some manuscripts or letters left behind by her father, Mr. Anth. van Leeuwenhoek, which were written by him in his life and are arranged in neat and good order, to be able to print as a continuation of his previously published letters.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed these household goods in Leeuwenhoek's old lab and office on page 32 (right; click to enlarge).

Some boxes (doosen), with papers (papieren)

A small hanging case (kasje)

Some junk (rommelingen)

1 small hat stand (kapstokje)

A wastbrieff ??

Leeuwenhoek's microscopes, tools and other instruments, which would have been in this room, were listed separately, in articles 78 and 79 of the inventory. See Related pages under Learn more below. This room is discussed in detail on the page titled Where did he do his scientific work?