What's the biggest challenge? For you, when navigating this web? And for me, when making this web?

Adapting a messy life, Leeuwenhoek's, full of inconsistent, incomplete information to a database that rewards consistency and regularity.

For example, in the 1600's, words were not spelled consistently. Leeuwenhoek was born into a small town where people knew each other on a first-name basis, maybe referring to someone's father to avoid confusion. There doesn't seem to have been a sense of one unchanging name for a person, what we now call a "legal name". That was a convention begun in Napoleon's time. In Leeuwenhoek's Dutch Republic:

  • People used various nicknames.
  • Busy notary clerks heard names incorrectly, but wrote what they heard.
  • Over the course of Leeuwenhoek's life, many people changed their names, especially as the patronymics gave way to family names. Leeuwenhoek's name often included the van.

For places, it was the same. The Hoogenhouck/van den Berch ancestral home on the Koornmarkt was called: Bel, Vergulde Bel, Bellaert, etc. Houses did not have persistent addresses. For example, Leeuwenhoek lived on "Hippolytusbuurt WZ" (west side). That was a short enough section of gracht that there were only a dozen houses.

Many records are missing or I have not found them yet. Baptism dates before 1650 are especially scarce. The real estate records seem full of gaps, especially when the property was inherited by a child. Delft's Stadhuis fire in 1618 destroyed most of the written records stored there.

The property boundaries are not always clear. The first real cadastral map was made in 1832, so it's the one I used to refer to the family's properties, but it does not always reflect the parcel boundaries of the 1600's. Uncle Huijch's property behind the family home on Oosteinde is a good example.

That said, there is a wealth of information about Leeuwenhoek's life and accomplisments. To make it accessible, I have had to make difficult decisions about taxonomy and structure. This Site Guide will help you navigate what I am developing. I still have thousands of documents on my hard drive that I hope I live long enough to process.

Feedback welcome!

A preview of the pages
in the Site Guide

What will you find on this web?

The core of Lens on Leeuwenhoek are the documented facts about Leeuwenhoek's life and times. They are organized in three ways: when, who, where, and what.

What will you find on this web? - extended version

A tour of this web via the menus, the shorter upper menu and then the longer drop-down menu, item by item.

What will you not find on this web?

As of mid-2014, Lens on Leeuwenhoek has little information about Leeuwenhoek's scientific career, the glasses, the specimens, the observations, the letters, all the things that made him famous. If you are interested in such things, the Bibliography is your best bet.

How to find information on this web

According to Abel Tasman (right, Dutch discoverer of the Tasmanian Sea), Lens on Leeuwenhoek has four means of wayfinding: 1) the two menus across the top, 2) the taxonomy terms, 3) the alphabetical list of written content, and 4) the standard search function, accessible from the top right corner of every page. Note the Advanced search expandable menu for narrowing the results.

What to call it? Dutch terms used on this web

You will get only so far with Leeuwenhoek before you will have to learn Dutch. The secondary literature about his science is mostly in English. However, the secondary literature about his life and times and almost all of the primary sources are in Dutch. Some terms, due to cultural changes, don't have clear translations.

Dutch spelling

Spelling the names of people and places on this web is the most significant area where a database's needs for regularity put pressure on historical accuracy. In addition, there are your needs for searching the contents of a database. As you'll see if you try to search the Delft property records at the Historisch GIS, it is very tedious to have to search for half a dozen variants for every person in each of the half a dozen likely sources. And what about the ones you don't imagine, such as Leeuwenhoek's father-in-law Elias de Meij, who sometimes spelled his first name Gillis?

Where's the information from the old Lens on Leeuwenhoek web?

The material that was on that older version (September 2009 - October 2013) of Lens On Leeuwenhoek has been distributed througout this newer version, as detailed on the table below. You can also search the new site.

A personal note

People look at Lens on Leeuwenhoek and ask, "Are you going to write a book?" Many of them haven't thought it through.