Lower floor front

The rooms on the top floors and in the attics numbered in the same order as in the inventory of notary Joris Geesteranus.

1 - Stoop (stoep)

2 - Front room (voorhuijs)

3 - Inner room (binnenkamer)

4 - Back room (achterkamer)

5 - Hallway (gang)

13 - Landing and cellar (kelder)

From the stoop (#1), the entrance to the house was in the center with a window to each side. On the back wall of the front room (#2) were a door to the hallway (#5) and a door to the inner room (#3). The hallway had a landing for the stairs. Both the hallway and the inner room had doors leading to the back room (#4), which had a window looking onto the courtyard. In the corner, a door led to the gallery (see Lower floor back).

1 Stoop with ledge (stoep met luifel)

Running along the front of the house was a private stoop, a couple of inches high, that was covered by an overhanging ledge. The stoop was wide enough for a bench on which the shop's goods could be displayed. The windows had shutters over the lower half, but they could be opened to display more goods. As described In 1867 by G. D. J. Schotel,

This row of windows ran along the width of the whole building above the awning, under which the merchandise was displayed day by day and in the evening the citizen and his family sat pleasantly. Not infrequently, the diligent housewife sat among them to knit, sew, darn, or spin, with the stove under the feet, surrounded by cradle, high chair and children playing, the last Saturday, without the public being annoyed by it.

From Leeuwenhoek's description below, if the ledge was of sufficient size to protect the lower winodws during "a fightful storm", they may have been as wide as the one on the right (click to enlarge) over De Backer van de Hoeck on Delft's Marktplein close to the Nieuwe Kerk.

In Letter 245 of January 8, 1704, to the members of the Royal Society, Leeuwenhoek described a salty rainstorm off the North Sea from the point of view of his office/lab on the floor above it.

On the 8th of December 1703 we had a frightful storm from the Southwest, by which the water, mixed with small parts of chalk and stone, was dashed against the windows of the houses in such a way that the panes were darkened, and although the lower windows of my house, which have uncommonly clean panes and are cleaned very well, were not exposed to the air until about eight o'clock in the morning, though they face Northeast and consequently away from the wind and there is also a ledge (luifel) over them, so that they are protected from the rain. Yet, before half an hour had elapsed, they were covered with so many water particles, and that by the whirlwinds, that they were deprived of most of their transparence. Since those water particles did not evaporate at all, I was firmly convinced that it was sea-water which had not only been dashed by the storm from the sea against the windows, but also spread all over the country.

In order to gain certainty about this, I blew two small glasses such as I considered suitable for making my observations about the water particles adhering to the window pane.

By gently pressing these glasses against the window pane covered with the said water particles, I collected some water on the glasses blown by me.

2 Front room (voorhuijs)


length: 5.28 meters (17.32 feet)

width: 5.1 meters (16.73 feet)

size: 26.9 square meters (289.7 square feet)

In the pattern most common before the Industrial Revolution separated home from workplace, Leeuwenhoek lived over his shop. As he abandoned the retail trade and turned to science, he moved his activities to the little room he had partitioned off the bedroom on the upper floor. There, he made and looked through the lenses, conducted the experiments, managed the specimens and records, and wrote the letters. (See Where did he work?)

Two possibilities for the shop after Leeuwenhoek's time was divided between his science upstairs at the Gulden Hoofd and his civic duties in the Stadhuis and Waag:

  • daughter Maria maintained the shop for an uncertain length of time, which could explain the great quantity of household goods in the estate inventory
  • the old shop was converted into a room to receive visitors, which would explain the furniture and paintings that the inventory listed in that room

It is possible that the room continued to be used for both purposes. However, none of the few written accounts of visitors to Leeuwenhoek's house mention that he received them in his shop. Some of them, who did not know Leeuwenhoek well, never got past this room, often to their chagrin. [ examples? ]

The room was almost square. It had no fireplace. Two windows looked onto the Hippolytusbuurt and across the gracht to the fish market. The windows above the door let in even more light. On the other end of the room, a door or doorway led to the hallway and another door led to the inner room. A window between the front room and the inner room would let Leeuwenhoek wait for customers where it was warmer.

Leeuwenhoek's front room had ...

... a bird cage and over two dozen pieces of artwork. The room had walls available for them on only two sides, so they must have been covered.

The front room was carpeted and had curtains on the window. The furniture listed in the inventory of her estate included a large cabinet, six chairs, and a couple of footstools. It also had a small bird cage, presumably on a stand. The walls were crowded with mirrors, a map, a clock, and more than two dozen paintings, prints, and plates as well as two pictures of maids on wooden panels. One of the Delft blue plates had Leeuwenhoek's image painted on it.

Also in that room stood the black lacquer cabinet with his microscopes, though the note "brought here for the inventory" indicates it was usually elsewhere. It contained hundreds of microscopes, their specimens, and probably other tools and materials, so it would have been too large to easily bring from Leeuwenhoek's office/lab on the upper floor.

Earlier the front room was used as a store, where Leeuwenhoek sold fabric and decorations for clothing. As he gained sufficient income from his civic jobs, he probably stopped running the store. The large quantity of unfinished fabric in Maria's estate inventory suggests that she and her step-mother could have continued.

When Maria died, her coffin must have stood in this front room. When the inventory was done two months later, part of the front-room furniture was still in the backroom.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) and paintings on pages 30 and 30v (right; click to enlarge).

A mirror (spiegel) with a black frame (lijst) 1 painting with fruit (vrugten)
1 ditto smaller 1 portrait of Leeuwenhoek, Delft earthenware (aardewerk), in a frame
2 plates painted with a coat of arms (wapenborden) 1 Delft plate (plaat)
A map (kaart) in a frame 1 hanging clock (hangend horologie)
5 prints and portrait in frames 1 small bird cage (kooijtje) with a tray (bakje)
1 painting with fish (vissen) 2 footstools (voetbanken)
1 ditto with a male goat (bok) A sail (zeijl) ??
1 ditto with flowers (blomwerk) A carpet cloth (tapijtkleed)
2 ditto with male tronies (manstronien) Six chairs with 6 blue cushions (kussens) on them
3 small paintings with gilded frames (vergulde lijsten) A painted wood maid (houte meijde)
1 painting with the Delft Fire (Delfse brand) A ditto smaller
2 landscapes, 3 ditto A green curtain
2 paintings of a group of people (gezelschapjes) 4 white lace curtains (glasgordijntjes)
An East Indian lacquered (verlakt) cabinet, therein some boxes with magnifying glasses, etc., brought here for the inventory


A tronie was a small painted face not intended to depict an identifiable person. Often, the face was mugging, that is, it had an exaggerated or comical expression. The picture was typically sold on the art market without identification of the sitter, and was not commissioned and retained by the sitter as portraits normally were. Both of these showed male faces.


P. J. Haaxman described Leeuwenhoek's coat of arms (wapenbord) in his 1871 biography.

Het is een schild van goud, beladen met een klimmen­de leeuw van azuur, getongd en geklauwd van keel. Het schild ge­dekt door een schuin staanden helm, waarop als helm­teeken een vogelvlucht van goud en azuur, gedekt met helmdek­ken van goud en azuur.

It is a shield of gold, covered with a rampant lion of azur, red tongued and clawed. The shield is topped by a slanting standing helmet, on which as helmet mark is a birdflight of gold and azur.

3 Inner room (binnekamer)


length: 30% of 13.20 / 43.30

width: 50% of 5.1 meters (16.73 feet) and then same length and 25% of 5.1 m

size: XX square meters (XX square feet)

This space between work life and family life was the smallest of the three rooms on the ground floor. It had no window to the outside, but it had both a leaded glass window and a door to the front room. Whoever was minding the store could keep an eye on it through the window and get easy access to it when a customer entered. The stores' financial records could have kept there. This inner room also had a fireplace, the only source of heat for the front room, too. Perhaps the lounge chair was convenient for napping between customers.

After all the stuff in this room was inventoried, what remained were a mirror and a few pieces of furniture.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) and paintings on page 30v (right; click to enlarge).

A mirror with a black frame A lounge chair (leunstoel) with a mattress
A polished couch (geboende -- boenden = to brush) A drop leaf table (hangoortafeltje)
A polished chair with a plush (trijpt) cushion on it  

4 Back room (agterkamer)


length: 30% of 13.20 / 43.30

width: 50% of 5.1 meters (16.73 feet) and then same length and 25% of 5.1 m

size: XX square meters (XX square feet)

This room would have been the family's main room for living and eating. The walls had ten family portraits, his daughter Maria, from his first marriage, his father Philips, his second wife, Cornelia, and three people in the most distinguished branch of her ancentry, the Uijtenbroeks, her mother's family. Throughout the sixteenth century, members of the Uijtenbroek family (also spelled Uyttenbrouck, among other variants) served on Delft's Veertigraad and as mayors, magistrates, and orphan masters. The portrait of Leeuwenhoek listed in the inventory was probably the one by his neighbor Johannes Verkolje; it now hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The two prints may well have been the copperplate version of the painting that Verkolje also made in the mid-1680s.

As in the front room, the walls of this back room were covered with paintings. In addition to the ten family portraits, the walls had fourteen other paintings, landscapes and still lifes of flowers, fish, and hunted game. I can find no record of a painter named J. van Leeuwen among the Delft St. Luke's guild members nor through an online search. The only J. van Leeuwen in Leeuwenhoek's extended family was his nephew Johannes van Leeuwen, born in Rotterdam, the cashier of the Bank van Leening in Zierikzee.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) and paintings in this back room on page 30v of the inventory (right; click to enlarge).

A large mirror in a black frame A landscape with cows (koeijen) 12 covered chairs (bekleede stoelen), under them 6 lounge chairs (leunstoelen) with white linen clothess (linde kleedjes) over them
3 portraits of Uijtenbroek 1 landscape 2 polished (geboende) chairs
1 ditto of Antonij van Leeuwenhoek 1 flower piece (blomstuk) 1 lacquered table (verlakte tafel)
1 ditto of Cornelia Swalmius, his housewife 1 landscape 1 polished geboende square table with a carpetcloth on it
1 ditto of Philips van Leeuwenhoek, his father 1 fruit piece (freuijt stukje) of J. van Leeuwen 2 polished guéridons (geboende gerridons)
1 ditto of Maria van Leeuwenhoek 1 piece with game animal (wild) 4 lacquered tea trays (verlakte theebladen)
1 large landscape 2 octagonal pieces with little fish (visjes) 1 diplay case (kijkkasje)
1 ditto with a waterfall (waterval) 1 large piece with fish (vissen) A polished teak (sacordaanhoute) chest of drawers (kas), therein some linen not brought here under article 81 (daar inne eenig linden t'geen hier voor onder art. 81 is gebracht)
1 beach (strandje) with fish (vissen) 2 prints in frames  
1 large landscape 1 coat of arms of van Leeuwenhoek  
1 piece with flowers  


Guéridons were low, usually round, end tables or side tables with three or four legs. They might hold a candle or vase.

5 Hallway (gang)


length: XX meters (XX feet)

width: XX meters (XX feet)

size: XX square meters (XX square feet) not including landing

The hallway ran from the front room to the back room along the southern wall of the Gulden Hoofd. Without window, it was lit only from the front room at one end and the back room at the other end.

The landing gave access to the spiral staircase that went to the upper floors as well as to the little cellar. It was not a full cellar like the one under the Druif shown in the 1922 cross-section (right sidebar; click to enlarge). It was large enough for shelving to store snow water for daily household use. Leeuwenhoek used it to store bottles with samples. [ letter # ?? ]

When making the inventory in 1745, the notaries found three racks and a flat basket in the hallway, no doubt for coats, hats, shoes, and boots. They found a table ring and a tea tray as well as a dozen walking sticks. Given that Leeuwenhoek lived to 90 and Maria lived until 88, they may well have needed the assistance for walking. As were the walls in the other rooms, the walls of the dimly lit hallway were covered with paintings. Two bamboo mats (litrottingen) and six Delft Blue plates also had his picture. The dozen other paintings were portraits, landscapes, or genre paintings with children, horses, and a church. No artists' names were noted.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) and paintings in the hallway on page 31 (right; click to enlarge).

A rack (rak) 1 portrait
1 bamboo matting (litrotting) with silver and with the portrait of A. v. Leeuwenhoek inlaid ?? 1 landscape, 1 group of people (gezelschap)
1 ditto with silver inlaid 2 small paintings
3 reed mats (rottingen) 11 sticks (stokken) A painted flat basket (geverfd bennetje)
A sword (degen), a pickaxe (piek) 1 table ring (tafelringh)
1 large painting 1 tea tray (teeblad)
2 paintings with children, etc. 2 racks
1 ditto with a church 6 Delft plates (Delfse borden) with the portrait of A. v. Leeuwenhoek
1 ditto with a man with horses  

13 Cellar (kelder)

This section follow the order of rooms in the 1747 inventory of the contents of the house. The notaries went through the three rooms and hallway on the lower floor of the main house. Then they went through the gallery to the kitchens, the two courtyards, and finally, the back house with the privy.

Having finished the lower floor, all the rooms marked "in de" or "in het", they walked back into the main house. In the hallway, the stepped onto the landing in order to go upstairs. They paused, however, to go down into the little cellar. It was probably very small and not large enough to stand up in. The inventory lists a rack and some shelving, which may have been mounted on the iron rack.

As mentiond in his letters, Leeuwenhoek used this cellar to store bottles with samples of water. He may well have used it for storing the family's drinking supply, melted snow water and wine. As the city's wine gauger, he knew a lot about wine. He mentions wine in his letters, but he hardly ever mentions beer.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) page 32 (right; click to enlarge).

An iron rack
9 boards (planken)
6 painted laths (latjes)

Leeuwenhoek mentioned this cellar in five different letters over three decades:

Letter 11 (AB 6) of September 7, 1674 to Henry Oldenburg

I have observed somewhat about Salt, of which I took a little and put it on the brim of a Tin dish, and so let it melt in my cellar, and having exposed that Brim to the hot Air, or the Fire, I had it turn'd into Salt again;

Letter 26 (AB 18) of October 9, 1676 to Henry Oldenburg

The 26th of April, I took 2½ ounces of Snow-water, which was about three years old, and which had stood [all the time] either in my cellar or study in a glass-bottle well stopped. In it I could discover no living creatures: And having poured some of it into a porcelain thea-cup, I put therein half an ounce of whole pepper, and so placed it in my study. ...

For 2 or 3 years I have not been able to find any little worms or eels in the vinegar that I keep in a cask in my cellar for my household.

Letter 82 (AB 43) of January 5, 1685 to members of the Royal Society

My wine vinegar (a cask of which, enough for a whole year, I lay down for my household7) and which had been in my cellar for about three months) had become so sour as far to exceed in acidity my previous stock.

Letter 176 (AB 106) of September 12, 1696 to Anthonie Heinsius

I had wine-vinegar on which there were Marigold leaves brought to me from my cellar, which vinegar has been preserved in a bottle for more than twenty-five years and is uncommonly strong.

Letter 228 (AB 140) of August 2, 1701 to members of the Royal Society

Last year I kept alive, for as many as three months, small eels, the largest of which were no more than the length of a finger. These little eels were in a big, flat-bottomed, earthen, glazed jar and were placed in my cellar, which is very cool, and the water was renewed at least once a week.