Wrote Letter 46 of 1685-07-13 (AB 85) to Members of the Royal Society

July 13, 1685
Standard reference information
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Text of the letter in the original Dutch and in English translation from Alle de Brieven / The Collected Letters at the DBNL - De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

The original manuscript on thirteen quarto pages, written and signed by Leeuwenhoek, is preserved at the Royal Society (MS. 1905. L 1. 76).


Plates from
Zaden van Bomen

Figures 3, 4

Figures 7, 8

Figures 11, 12

Figures 14, 15, 16

Figures 17, 18

Only 13 of the original 19 figures have survived in the Royal Society's archives. The Dutch and Latin editions that Leeuwenhoek published all used the same plates. Eleven of the figures were grouped on five plates (left; click to enlarge); the others were printed singly. All were placed close to the text where Leeuwenhoek discussed them. They and the figures on the sidebars came from the 1686 first edition of  Zaden van Boomen.

In the text, Leeuwenhoek noted that he drew the first four figures. Figure 1 is the most skillful:

I did not only see the leaves extraordinarily large, as indicated here in fig. 1 CDEF, but I also discovered that the leaves (setting aside for the moment the veins) consist of an extremely large number of very small, round, raised globules, which I tried my best to copy; but the same have not been drawn nearly so small here as they ought to have been.

For Figs. 2, 3, and 4, Leeuwenhoek indicated his purpose is drawing it the way he did. For Fig. 2, he wanted to "get a clear view".

In order to get a clear view of these I made a cross-section of the supposed root or stem, as in BG, and brought this cut-through part before my vision, and have drawn the same, together with all the vessels which I could see in it, as well as was feasible to me, as shown here in fig. 2 IKLM. .... this last figure was drawn through a stronger microscope, in order to discover still more distinctly the constitution of the trunk and the root. ... I have also thought fit to add here the outline of the leave which I took from a number of seeds of trees.

For Figs. 3 and 4, he wanted "to be able to show".

I have also thought fit to add here the outline of the leaves which I took from a number of seeds of trees, with that insight to be able to show that it does not necessarily follow that the largest seeds must also have the biggest embryo of the plant in them, since I have found that the beginning of the plant in the small seed of the ash-tree may vary very much in size, and far exceeds the small leaves contained in the large seed of the walnut which I indicate here in fig. 3 and 4, which I took from two different nuts, in order to show how little difference there is between two essentially similar seeds of any fruit. I have only indicated the leaves here, because I can find little or no difference in structure, at the beginning of the stem, where the root (which is a little longer than the leaves) is to spring from, between this and the beginning of the stem and roots which I have taken from other seeds.

Someone else drew Fig. 12:

A seed of a hazel-nut that I here had drawn larger, in order better to indicate the course of the vessels which come from the cord.

Leeuwenhoek drew the next one:

I have made a cross-section of the cord through which the almond is nourished, because it is somewhat thicker than that of a hazel-nut; and I have illustrated the same, with its outline, as fig. 13. ... and I have pictured, in one compartment, the vessels that run longitudinally in the same, as they appeared to my vision.

He did not indicate who drew any of the other figures. However, the relative sophistication of the figures shows that if someone else drew Fig. 12, that someone probably also drew Fig. 10, Fig. 11, Fig. 17, and Fig. 18.