Delft: Adriaan Beman 1718. [xiv], 1-225, 227-232, 232-460, [28 - Register & Druk-fouten] pages + engraved frontispiece and 31 leaves of plates (10 folding). Pagination irregular but complete. 21 x 17 cm. Quarto. Full vellum binding with red sprinkled page edges. Binding and page edges are soiled. "Barnett Cohen" stamped in several places. Occasional leaves with reading corner creases. A small burn mark affecting a few letters of leaf Ddd2 (pp 395/6). Mostly marginal minor worming in the back matter (Register & Druk-fouten). The engraved frontispiece has a portrait inset of Leeuwenhoek, is engraved by Goeree, and has Dutch lettering at the foot identifying the publisher and date (1718). Spine titled in ink "Leeuwen's Werckes" and below that the numerals IV where the vellum is just a touch lighter. Very Good. Vellum. 
Little introduction is necessary to microscopy enthusiasts and historians about the Dutch draper and amateur microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. The innovative single-lens microscopes he hand-made and the success he had using them to study the unseen world was nothing short of miraculous. He documented his studies primarily in letters sent to the Royal Society and elsewhere in a constant stream of varieties that have driven bibliographers and collectors mad.
Clifford Dobell studied Leeuwenhoek's work for years and, in a labor of love, produced a collection of Leeuwenhoek's writings in 1932, including a limited primary bibliography of Dutch and Latin editions. Dover Publications (our reference source) printed an updated version in 1960 containing some post-mortem corrections provided by Dobell's wife.
The present volume collects Leeuwenhoek’s letters sent to the Royal Society of London and sequentially numbered I-XLVI. Dobell notes two states of the engraved frontispiece, with the “Dutch lettering at the foot” (presumably as here) indicating the 1st state. It is the Dutch edition, preceding the Latin by some four years. This volume also became the last volume of the "Final Dutch collective edition." Earlier collected letter volumes were published separately in 1686, 1687, and 1696. (see Dobell #s 19 and 20). All are standalone.
The title loosely translated is “Letters Sent to the Noblest Lords of the Royal Society of London, as to other intelligent and learned men, on various mysteries of nature, especially on the wonderful constitution of the vesicles of muscles in many animals; the tendons and their processing; scattered seeds; the eye of a whale; the hair; the animals on the duck brood &c &c.”
The 30+ engraved plates contain many figures (often 4-6 per plate) representing what Leeuwenhoek saw through his tiny microscopes. We find the illustrations not only fascinating but technically impressive, given the hurdles Leeuwenhoek surmounted to build his instruments. A tiny sphere of glass nestled between two plates of brass or silver with a specimen screw was all that he needed to see and document his "little animals."
Complete volumes of Leeuwenhoek’s letters are becoming increasingly rare. An excellent opportunity to obtain a well-illustrated book containing some of Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries.
The previous owner Barnett Cohen was also a Leeuwenhoek enthusiast. He published several articles on Leeuwenhoek and worked professionally as a bacteriologist, conducting the first ultra-microscopic surgeries. We include a copy of a published appreciation of Dr. Cohen by a friend and colleague with this item.
Leeuwenhoek was "the first to see and describe bacteria, red blood corpuscles, spermatozoa" (Horblit)
Horblit, "One Hundred Books Famous in Science,” The Grolier Club: New York, 1964. #65 (referring to the collected edition)
Dobell, Clifford, "Leeuwenhoek and his 'Little Animals'",Dover: 1960, page 394.