Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, His Images and Draughtsmen

Fransen, S.
Perspectives on Science
vol. 27:3, May-June 2019, p.485-544
Boston: MIT Press


This article provides, for the first time, an overview of all images (drawings and prints) sent by the Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) to the Royal Society during their fifty-year long correspondence. Analyses of the images and close reading of the letters have led to an identification of three periods in which Leeuwenhoek worked together with artists. The first period (1673–1689) is characterized by the work of several draughtsmen as well as Leeuwenhoek’s own improving attempts to depict his observations. In the second period (1692–1712) Leeuwenhoek worked together with one unknown draughtsman, while the work in the third period (1713–1723) can now be attributed to the young draughtsman Willem vander Wilt.

This article also shows how Leeuwenhoek did not only rely on draughtsmen for the depiction of his own observations, but rather, how he worked together with them in his workshop to observe, confirm, and witness microscopic experiments, replicating the collaborative working methods of the Royal Society in Delft.