A Sixteenth-Century Calligraphic Manuscript Inscribed by Georg Bocksay and Illuminated by Joris Hoefnagel


Mira calligraphiae monumenta: A Sixteenth-Century Calligraphic Manuscript Inscribed by Georg Bocksay and Illuminated by Joris Hoefnagel

Lee Hendrix and Thea Vignau-Wilberg


424 pages

PDF file size: 20.0 MB


In 1561–62 the master calligrapher Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, created the Mira calligraphiae monumenta as a demonstration of his own pre-eminence among scribes. Years later, Ferdinand’s grandson, the Emperor Rudolf II, commissioned Europe’s last great manuscript illuminator, Joris Hoefnagel, to embellish his work. The resulting book is at once a treasury of extraordinary beauty, a landmark in the cultural debate between word and image, and one of the most intriguing memorials of Rudolf’s endlessly fascinating rule in Prague.

This complete facsimile of the codex, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, is supported by scholarly commentaries and biographies of both artists. Bocskay assembled a vast selection of contemporary and historical scripts for a work which summarized all that had been learned about writing up to that date—a testament to the universal power of the written word. The finest white vellum and lavish use of gold and silver highlighted his flamboyant technical prowess and extraordinary sureness of hand.

Hoefnagel took his commission to decorate this marvel, now accompanied by an alphabet of Roman majuscules and Gothic miniscules, as a challenge to prove the superiority of his art over Bocskay’s words. Every resource of illusionism, color and form was employed in a rich, striking, and witty scheme. Brilliant grotesques of all kinds—flowers, fruit, insects, animals, monsters and masks—counterpoint the lettering and elaborate on the nature of the universe, the word of God, and the glory of His temporal representative, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

Of consuming interest to scholars, collectors, bibliophiles and art historians, this remarkable opus will also be a key source of inspiration for graphic designers, typographers, practising calligraphers and devotees of the art of the book.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
    John Walsh
  • Preface
    Thomas Kren
  • Mira calligraphiae monumenta: An Overview
    Lee Hendrix
  • Georg Bocskay, The Calligrapher
    Thea Vignau-Wilberg
  • Joris Hoefnagel, The Illuminator
    Thea Vignau-Wilberg
  • The Writing Model Book
    Lee Hendrix
  • The Constructed Alphabet
    Thea Vignau-Wilberg
  • Codicological Description of the Manuscript

About the Authors

Lee Hendrix is associate curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Thea Vignau-Wilberg is a curator of Netherlandish Prints and Drawings at the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich.