LEEUWENHOEK, Antoni van (1632-1723). Ondervingen en beschouwingen der onsigtbare geschapene waarheden, vervat in verscheydene Brieven, geschreven aan de... Koninklijke Societeit in Engeland. Leiden: Daniel van Gaesbeeck, 1684.
4o (200 x 156 mm). 10 engraved text illustrations. Modern vellum; folding cloth case.
FIRST EDITION of letters 32 and 33, and the first separately published edition of any of Leeuwenhoek's letters. "Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, who lacked formal university training in the sciences, philosophy, or languages, surely ranks among the greatest autodidacts in the history of science and medicine. Born into a comfortable middle-class Dutch family, he passed his long life almost entirely in Delft. There he had two careers: the first as a civil servant, the second as a microscopist of international renown... Although a man of limited theoretical skills, he was a consummately acute observer, and for fifty years he patiently and painstakingly documented the hidden realms of nature in a way no one had done before him" (Grolier Medicine). A skilled lens grinder, Leeuwenhoek produced a total of about 550 lenses during his lifetime, perfecting the microscope sufficiently to enable him to make unprecedented observations of sub-visible life. Although his ignorance of foreign languages forced him to rely on Dutch authors and Dutch translations of standard scientific works, he was aided and encouraged in his work by friends such as Constantin Huygens and Reinier de Graaf. One beneficial consequence of his relative isolation from the main currents of contemporary scientific scholarship was that "he was thus able to work with full independence and to make a sharp distinction between the empiricism and speculation that marked the sometimes chaotic world of seventeenth-century science. Leeuwenhoek apparently regarded speculation as an academic occupation... He usually set out his observations fully, as facts, and only then in a separate section, allowed himself to wonder what those facts might mean".
While his hundreds of observations included inorganic as well as organic structures, Leeuwenhoek's major contributions were in the field of microbiology: "Early in his career as a scientist, he observed what he described as animalcules or 'little animals' [dierkens] in water, and from then on he described in considerable detail a spectrum of microorganisms never before detected, including bacteria, protozoa, and rotifers" (Grolier Medicine). He devised for his observations a system of micrometry, utilizing as standards a grain of coarse sand, a hair from his beard, and two micro-organisms. One of Leeuwenhoek's lifelong concerns and the area of his work that most caught the attention of his contemporaries, was the study of sexual reproduction. His work includes the first full descriptions of spermatozoa, which he considered to be "little men," the origin of all new animal life, regarding the egg as primarily a source of nutrients (in opposition to Harvey, who took the contrary view). He also investigated the development of other mammals as well that of birds, fish, reptiles and mollusks, and the cumulative effect of his work was to provide evidence aginst the then prevalent theory of spontaneous generation. He independently discovered and correctly identified blood corpuscles, and, attempting to draw an analogy between animal and plant systems, minutely analyzed the systems of nutrient transport in plants.Although he developed no general theory, Leeuwenhoek's work raised crucial questions and helped establish the microsope as an indispensable tool for medical and biological research.
Leeuwenhoek's scientific communications consisted exclusively of letters to fellow scientists, the majority addressed to the Royal Society in London. 165 were published, in two chronological sequences, numbered 28-146 and I-XLIV (letters 1-27 were not published separately, although abstracts appeared in the Philosophical transactions). 120 letters were abstracted in English or Latin in volumes VIII-XXXII of the Transactions (1673-1723, see lot 716). "Leeuwenhoek himself did not publish his work until 1684, when he brought out some of his letters in Dutch [starting with letters 32 and 33]; from 1685 onward he also published Latin translations [not his own, as he had no knowledge of Latin]. He initially edited, reprinted, and reissued some of his letters separately or in groups of two or three, a practice that has resulted in some bibliograpical confusion. From 1687 he adopted a more systematic course of publication..." (DSB). All of the letters are illustrated with engravings; the artist is unknown. The Norman collection includes ALL OF THE PUBLISHED LETTERS OF THE FIRST SERIES, MOST IN THEIR DUTCH OR LATIN FIRST EDITIONS, as described in this and the following lot. Dobell 1; cf. Grolier Medicine 37; cf. PMM 166; Waller 10887.4; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1301.
[Bound with:] Ondervindingen...waar in gehandeld werd vande eyerstok, ende derselver ingebeelde eyeren, dat een mensch uyt een dierken voort komt. Leiden: van Gaesbeeck, 1684. 7 engravings. FIRST EDITION of letters 37 and 39, the latter, addressed to Franois Aston and dated 12 September 1683, containing Leeuwenhoek's famous description and illustration of bacteria scraped from his own teeth. "On the teeth he found certain micro-organisms and he gave the first illustrations of various kinds of bacteria (on 17 [i.e., 12] September, 1683), without realizing the special nature of this discovery and without connecting it with morbid infections; for this the world had to wait another one hundred and fifty years, in particular for the work of Pasteur" (PMM 166). Dobell 2; Waller 10887.2; Wellcome III. p. 476; Norman 1303. - [Bound with:] Ondervingen... waar in gehandelt wert vande schobbens inde mond, de lasarie, jeuking' 't kind met vis-schibbens, 't binnenste der darmen, en de bewegung derselve. Leiden: Gaesbeeck, 1684. 6 engravings. FIRST EDITION, letter 40. Dobell 3; Waller 10887.5; Wellcome III. p. 476; Norman 1305. - [Bound with:] Ondervindingen... over het maaksel van't Humor Cristallinus. Leiden: van Gaesbeeck, 1684. 5 engravings. FIRST EDITION, letter 41. Dobell 4; Waller 10887.6; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1306. (Occasional dampstaining throughout the volume.)
Ondervindingen...vande eyerstok. Leiden: van Gaesbeeck, 1684. 4o (190 x 138 mm). 4 engravings. Modern morocco. Letter 37 only; the typesetting identical to Dobell 2 but without the last 10 spearately signed and paginated leaves containing letter 39. The Wellcome Library has two such copies. Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1304. - [Bound with:] Ontdekkingen en Ontledingen van sout-figuren...van levendige dierkens in de mannelyke saden. Leiden: Cornelis Boutesteyn, 1685. One folding engraved plate, 19 engravings in the text. FIRST EDITION of letters 44 and 45, the latter containing some of Leeuwenhoek's observations of spermatozoa. Dobell 6; Waller 10887.7; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1307.
A collection of Dutch editions of Leeuwenhoek's letters, bound in 6 (of 7 or more) volumes, 4o (195 x 156 mm), contemporary calf, spines gilt, the volumes numbered 2-7 on spines. (Occasional dampstaining throughout.) Contents as follows (listed in order of binding):
1) Ontledingen... van levende dierkens de teel-deelen van verscheyde dieren, vogelen en visschen; van het hout... van hair, vlees en vis. Leiden: Cornelis Boutesteyn, 1686. Additional engraved title by Romeyn de Hooghe, 3 engraved plates of which 2 large and folding, 7 engravings in text. FIRST EDITION, letters 28-31 and 34-36. Dobell 8; Waller 10887.1; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1309.
2) Ontledingen... van de onsigtbare verborgentheden; vervat in verscheide brieven. Leiden: C. Boutesteyn, 1691. 18 engravings. Second Dutch edition, letters 38, 42 and 43. Dobell 5a (not seen by him); Waller 10887.3; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1313.
3) [Duplicate copy of Norman 1307 (Dobell 6)].
4) Ontledingen... van het begin der planten in de zaden van boomen. Leiden: Boutesteyn, 1685. One folding engraved plate, 25 engravings in text. FIRST EDITION, letters 46 and 47. Dobell 7; Waller 10887.8; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1308.
5) Ontledingen... van de cinnaber naturalis. Leiden: Boutesteyn, 1686. One folding plate, 19 engravings in text. FIRST EDITION, letters 48-52. Dobell 9; Waller 10887.9; Weelcome III, p. 476; Norman 1310.
6) Vervolg der brieven, geschreven aan de... Koninglijke Soceiteit in Londen. Leiden: Boutesteyn, 1688. 8 engraved plates (one folding), 4 engravings in text. (Lacks engraved portrait, this volume more severely dampstained with some mildew in lower margins.) Second edition, letters 53-60 (first published in 1687), with a register of letters 28-52. Dobell 10a; Waller 10894 (with second and third parts [Dobell 12-13], published later [see nos. 11 and 12 below]); Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1311.
7) [Duplicate copy of Norman 1303 (Dobell 2)].
8) Ondervindingen en beschouwingen der onsigtbare geschapene waarheden. Delft: Henrik van Kroonevelt, 1694. 15 engravings. Second edition, letters 32, 33 and 39. Dobell [Schierbeek] 1a; Wellcome III, p. 476; Norman 1302.
9-10) [Duplicate copies of Norman 1306 and 1305 (Dobell 4 and 3)].
11) Naturs verborgentheden ontdekt: zijnde een tweede vervolg der brieven, geschreven aan de Koninglijke Societeit tot Londen. Delft: Andries Voorstad, 1689. Engraved frontispiece portrait by Abraham de Blois after Jan Verkolje (first state, with caption in Dutch), 6 plates of which 3 folding, 2 engravings in text. (Some mildew spots, occasional browning.) FIRST EDITION, letters 61-67, consisting of the second part of the Verfolg der brieven, 1688 (Dobell 10a, Norman 1311), the pagination continuing from part 1. Dobell 12; Waller 10894; Wellcome III, pp. 476-77; Norman 1312.
12) Derde Verfolg der brieven. Delft: van Kroonevelt, 1693. 6 engraved plates of which 1 double-page and 1 folding, 2 engravings in the text. FIRST EDITION, letters 68-75, part 3 of the Verfolg..., the pagination continuing from the previous parts. Dobell 13; Waller 10894; Wellcome III, p. 477; Norman 1314.
13) Vierde Verfolg der brieven. Delft: van Kroonevelt, 1694. 6 engraved plates (3 folding). FIRST EDITION, letters 76-83, part 4 of the Verfolg... the pagination continuing from the previous parts. Dobell 14; Waller 10894a; Wellcome III, p. 477; Norman 1315. (8)