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Paperblanks journal.


Mira Botanica


Before Dutch still life painting developed, artists illuminated handwritten manuscripts to add emotional power to a written work. A celebrated practitioner of this style was Joris Hoefnagel. Reproduced here is a page he illuminated for the Mira calligraphiae monumenta, a mid-16th-century manuscript by Georg Bocskay.


Original Art: Illuminated page from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta

Era: mid to late 1500s

Region: Netherlands


The art of still life painting is a celebrated part of Dutch culture and a technique for which its artists are among the most prized. But this captivating and time-honoured artistic style didn’t emerge fully formed. Before these artists came to be so celebrated, there were illustrators who delicately illuminated handwritten manuscripts with images of plants, fruits, flowers, animals and insects to add emotional power to a written work.


One of the most renowned practitioners of this style of illumination was Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1601). In the 1590s the Emperor Rudolf II commissioned Hoefnagel to add his illuminations, meant to represent a survey of the natural world, to the Mira calligraphiae monumenta. The book was a mid-16th-century manuscript on the art of calligraphy by Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. In making his additions, Hoefnagel not only included the usual flora and fauna elements, but enhanced Bocskay’s lettering with hybrid creatures and fanciful masks of the letters the writer had created. In using mediums such as watercolour, gold and silver paint and ink on parchment, Hoefnagel aimed to demonstrate the superior emotional power of images over the simple written word.


The specific piece from the Mira that we have reproduced here is known as Wainscot, French Rose, Wasplike Insect, English Daisy and Caterpillar, owing to the plants and insects most clearly depicted. The scientific naturalism of Hoefnagel’s botanical and animal drawings are what served as a model for future Netherlandish still life artists. Hoefnagel is remembered as being the last important Flemish manuscript illuminator and one of the first artists to work on the new genre of still life. In fact, one of his undated miniature floral pieces is regarded as the first known independent still life image.


The Mira calligraphiae monumenta (Model Book of Calligraphy) is celebrated as one of the last important examples of European manuscript illumination. With Bocskay and Hoefnagel, two masters of their field, at work, no one art form rises as superior. Instead, the calligraphy and illumination elevate each other. Today, the book can be found in the collections of the Getty Museum in California.

100% recycled binder boards
Decorative printed cover paper
FSC-certified text paper
Threaded stitching and glue, as needed
Acid-free sustainable forest paper


  • At Paperblanks, we create products that inspire creativity, empower expression and celebrate special
    moments. A homage to art and culture, our line of journals and creative tools sparks the imagination by
    offering a connection to artists and cultural movements from all eras and regions.

    Cover Designs
    • Wide range of timeless cover art
    • World cultures and traditions represented
    • Historical background and credit information detailed in each 

    Unique Closures
    • Wrap, elastic and clasp closures offered
    • Selected to complement each cover design

    Well-Crafted Bindings
    • All books are Smyth sewn – the highest-quality binding available
    • Smyth sewn refers to a classic style of bookmaking in which the
    signatures are sewn together and further reinforced with adhesive
    and fabric backing.

    High-Quality Paper
    • Paper weights (gsm) vary depending on book format and can be
    found on every product page
    • All text paper is FSC-certified
    • Binder boards crafted from 100% recycled material

    • Hardcover journals have an accordion-style memento pouch
    • Flexi notebooks come with a curved back cover pocket

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