The profile of research in microbiology has changed as new techologies create new opportunities and as priorities adjust themselves. Microbiological research is almost 350 years old. The first systematic foundations of the discipline were set in place late in the 18th century with the publication of Vermium Terrestrium and Fluviatilium by O. F. Muller. Although many of the observations of earlier workers have little value or meaning today because of the inadequacies or earlier technologies, or what would now be seen as the non-discriminating perspective of the communities, the study of older documents is still informative and rewarding. The older literature is rich in unique and valuable observations - often of a kind no longer being made. Our discipline is impoverished if we allow these to subside into oblivion. The study of such documents draws attention to the transience of our current perception of knowledge. More importantly, it reveals that we are making progress with a timeless and robust description of the world. This material has been collected from various sources, and these are identified where appropriate. Image by D. J. Patterson. Image copyright: D. J. Patterson, used under license to MBL (micro*scope).