John Chamberlayne

translator into English for publication in Philosophical Transactions
Death or Burial date: 
November 2, 1723

John Chamberlayne learned Dutch while he was studying at Leiden University, beginning in May 1688. Back in England, he was a courtier. In 1702, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and later had three articles in Philosophical Transactions. He gained fame as a translator of Gerard Brandt's History of the Reformation in the Low Countries, 4 vols.

Between 1700 and 1722, but mostly from 1700 to 1712, Chamberlayne translated around sixty of Leeuwenhoek's later letters into English for publication in Philosophical Transactions. He wrote about the difficulties of translating Leeuwenhoek's Dutch in letters to Hans Sloane of:

Dr. Miller has translated the letter faithfully. I have made some small alterations...

Letter 214 [128] of 9 July 1700 or Letter 216 [130] of 27 July 1700

July 30, 1700 O.S. 10 August 1700 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4038, f. 40


I will not deny Sir but there may be great many faults of my own in the translation having forgot a great deal of that Dutch which I acquired during my studies at Leyden, I beg the favour of you that Dr Miller may translate the same letter also, and then if you will confront us you'll understand it the better.

3 August 1700 O.S. 14 August 1700 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4038, f. 41


I found it one of the most intricate letters that I ever read in my life, and that, not so much upon ye Account of several words, whereof for want of Dictionary, I knew not the signification, as of the frequent tautologies, incoherent expressions, ungrammatical & unsyntaxical sentences without number; many of which I took the liberty to correct, and some I have expressly inserted for your information, and now I am finding fault with him, I will add one more accusation more, which is, that if all the expressions in that letter which are extreamly trivial and of no consequence were omitted, the letter would want almost half its length but not one jot of its meaning.

Letter ??

29 October 1700 O.S. 9 November 1700 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4038, f. 86


for want of grammar he [Leeuwenhoek] is sometimes so abstruse that even his own countrymen cannot explain him. [He omitted a whole paragraph] which Mr de Geldermalsen himself could make nothing of it

when he keeps to a bare relation of fact he is one of the greatest men in the world, but when he begins to philosophise he is one of the least

- next letter -- Adriaan van Borssele van der Hooghe (1658-1728), heer van Geldermalsen, werd in 1699 aangesteld als buitengewoon gezant aan het Engelse hof, waar hii enkele jaren verbleef.

26 May 1701 O.S. 6 June 1701 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4038 f. 171


20 January 1702/03 O.S. 31 January 1723 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4039, 73-74


my pains, which, pardon my boasting, have been not small for I have been often forced to pick out the sense as well as grammar of the abovementioned Gentleman [Leeuwenhoek], when neither the envoy of Holland, the Dutch minister, & a physician of that country whom I have occasionally consulted, have not been able to assist

25 November 1704 O.S. 6 December 1704 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4039, f. 396


'I return to you Mr Leeuwenhoeks letter as wel translated as I can, but indeed 't is a burden almost too hard for me to bear, because I find few of his own Countrymen can understand his ungrammatical language.'

4 October 1708 O.S. 15 October 1708 N.S.
British Library, Sloane MS 4041, f. 215