Stock Number: 2404122510


An outstanding collection of Leeuwenhoek's contributions, with many engraved illustrations, including the famous depiction of cochineal – all in single issues preserving marbled paper spines


Small 4to




Antony van Leeuwenhoek, et al.

Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Bookshop, Scientific, Scientific Books, Microscopy, Natural history


An extensive collection of Leeuwenhoek’s contributions to the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions for the years 1704–1705, with fully 13 contributions across 8 single issues, all preserving very early marbled paper spine wraps, over the original stab-stitching. These are therefore copies of the Philosophical Transactions in their original state, and hence of the utmost rarity.

Leeuwenhoek is the focus of the collection – for a full list of his contributions see below – but there are very many other significant papers here, notably two of Francis Hauksbee’s earliest experiments on the production of electricity in a vacuum, with an excellent illustration of his modified air-pump. Other highlights include John Locke’s meteorological report; William Derham’s experiments on pendulums in a vacuum; John Gregory on Cassini on orbits, and a very wide range of papers besides (cobalt, sub spots, insects in bark, etc. etc.).

Amongst Leeuwenhoek’s many contributions here, the letter on cochineal (No. 4) is significant for its analysis of this economically useful insect (used in dye production), and for its illustration. Jordan Kellman’s 2010 essay on the understanding of cochineal singles out the illustration for particular praise, calling it “a microscopic tour de force, among the most detailed and thorough microscopic analyses made of a natural object at that time”. The discussion of the nature of sand (No. 3) is also important, as Leeuwenhoek recognized the utter irregularity of sand particles. No. 9 contains Leeuwenhoek’s famous statement on the ‘wheel’ rotifer, with a very nice illustration.

The Leeuwenheok contributions are:

1. Part of a Letter concerning Worms he observed in Sheeps Livers and Pasture Grounds (Phil. Trans. 289, January/February 1704)

2. Part of a Letter giving his Observations on the late Storm (ditt0)

3. Part of two Letters concerning the Figures of Sand (ditto)

4. A Letter concerning Cochineel (Phil. Trans. 292, July/August 1704)

5. A Letter concerning the flesh of Whales, Crystaline humour of the Eye of Whales, Fish, and other Creatures, and of the use of the Eye-lids (Phil. Trans. 293, September/October 1704)

6. A Letter concerning the Tubes or Canals that convey the yellow Sap in the Herb called Chelidonium majus, or Celandine, &c. (ditto)

7. A Letter to John Chamberlain, Esq, F.R.S. concerning Tobacco ashes (ditt0)

8. A Letter concerning some Fossils of Swisserland [sic], &c. (Phil. Trans. 294, December 1704)

9. A Letter […] concerning Animalcula on the Roots of Duck-Weed, &c. (Phil. Trans. 295, January 1705)

10. A Letter from Mr Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek, F.R.S. concerning the Barks of Trees (Phil. Trans. 296, February 1705)

11. Part of a Letter from Mr Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek, F.R.S. concerning the Vitrifyed Salts of Calcin’d Hay (ditto)

12. A Letter from Mr Anthony van Leeuwenhoek. F.R.S. concerning the Figures of the Salts of Crystal (Phil. Trans. 298, April 1705)

13. Several Microscopical Observations on the Pumice-Stone, Coral, Spunges, &c. (Phil. Trans. 304, November/December 1705)

Condition is generally very good: some early pages spotted, as usual; very minor tears at the folds of some diagrams (not not significant at all); splash to the top edge of the plate of No. 1. Overall an excellent group, and an unusual survival in this ‘single-issue’ form.

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GB Boris Jardine Rare Books

Boris Jardine Rare Books specializes in history of science and technology, and scientific instruments.

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