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Maria's Microscopes is a fact-based fictional account of real scientific innovation, set in late Renaissance Holland from 1666 to 1743. The microscopes of the title are made by Maria's father, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. His momentous discoveries - blood cells, sperm, bacteria - attract ambassadors, monarchs, and top scholars to his home in Delft, to look through his high-powered lenses.
Her mother's untimely death turns ten-year-old Maria into her father's research assistant. Thus her life is anything but typical of the daily routine of most Dutch girls and women. Only upon her father's death does Maria discover that her former freedoms are impossible without a male sponsor. Yet she achieves her goal to build a marble monument in her father's memory. On her deathbed, her main concern is the welfare of his 200 microscopes.
Maria's Microscopes is set in the same town and era as Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Leeuwenhoek appears in Girl, and Jan Vermeer is a pivotal character in Maria. To research Maria, Bullard travelled to Delft and London. The heart of Delft looks much as it did in Maria's time. The monument she erected to honour him still stands inside the oldest church in town.
In London, Bullard camped in the library of the Royal Society. Leeuwenhoek became famous through its publications, and they still have hundreds of Antonie's letters and diagrams. He also sent specimens, and Bullard was permitted to examine the few survivors. As well, she saw Maria's one letter to the Society, and matched that handwriting to the labels on some of the specimens.
However, the Society did not have a copy of the unusual joint will drawn up by father and daughter. Bullard's unrelenting research led to the Dutch original. She had it transcribed and translated, then donated it to the Society's archives.
At present, Maria's Microscopes is making the rounds of agents and publishers. Wish it luck!