Pieter Rabus

admirer and publisher
Birth or Baptism date: 
December 12, 1660
Death or Burial date: 
January 13, 1702

A Rotterdam notary who was editor of Boekzaal van Europa from 1693 until his death in 1702. The Boekzaal was one of the first learned journals that featured book reviews. He and Leeuwenhoek visited each other and corresponded in the 1690s. Rabus published seven of Leeuwenhoek's letters to him in Boekzaal from 1693 to 1696.

In addition to Letter L-226 of 18 August 1693 and Letter L250 of May 1695, Rabus addressed three other letters to Leeuwenhoek, Letter L-258 of 21 July 1695, Letter L-288 of 16 May 1696, Letter L-298 of 30 July 1696.

In turn, L. wrote seven letters to Rabus, all published in Boekzaal van Europe.

In addition, in Boekzaal of May and June 1697 Rabus published what he calls an extract from (but was really his own summary of the first part of) Letter L-318 of 5 April 1697 to the Royal Society along with an account of his visit to L. with Herman Lufneu.

Leeuwenhoek published only one of his letters to Rabus in his own works. Letter 140 [85] L-246 of 30 November 1694, about the eyes, intestines, and eggs of a dragon-fly, another rejection of spontaneous generation, and the impregnation of women, was published in Dutch in Vijfde Vervolg der Brieven in 1696 and in Latin translation in Arcana Naturae Detecta in 1695, reprinted in Opera Omnia in 1722.


Letter 184 [108] of 5 April 1697 to the Royal Society, Collected Letters, vol. 12, p. 137: "I cannot omit to add here that a few months ago a certain High German requested permission to practise medicine in the town of Rotterdam, because he boasted that he cured many kinds of diseases and wounds or sores by means of his Sympathic powder, namely, by treating with that Powder at his house the urine of the patient which was brought to him daily."

Footnotes 11-13, p. 153

11) The High German was GEORG HENRIK VAN RETTWICH, who practised as a quack in Rotterdam for some time in 1697. See VAN DER SAAG, ‘Rabus en Van Leeuwenhoek’, pp. 363-364; THIJSSEN-SCHOUTE, ‘Hermanus Lufneu’, pp. 160-164; and DE VET, Pieter Rabus (1660-1702), pp. 195-200.

12) The sympathic powder was a medicament originally introduced by KENELM DIGBY (1603-1665), which was based on a solution of copper sulphate. The sympathic method of treatment was based on action at a distance; the medicament was not applied to the patient or the wound itself, but e.g. to the wound dressing, the weapon which had made the wound, or the urine of the patient. This method connected with the old doctrine of signatures was explained in the seventeenth century, in imitation of DIGBY, especially by the corpuscular theories then arising. See BAKKER, ‘Poudre de Sympathie’, pp. 51-57; BOAS HALL, ‘Kenelm Digby’, pp. 95-97; and LUYENDIJK-ELSHOUT, ‘Geneeskundig onderwijs’, pp. 374-378.

13) When in June or July 1697 [Rabus] visited L., in the company of, among others, the Rotterdam town practitioner Hermanus Lufneu (1657-1744), also an opponent of the sympathic method, he asked L. permission to make an abstract of the present letter to the Royal Society and publish it (Boekzaal (May and June 1697), pp. 495-496). For the further polemic about the sympathic powder, see THIJSSEN-SCHOUTE, ‘Hermanus Lufneu’, pp. 160-164, and DE VET, Pieter Rabus (1660-1702), pp. 195-200.