The first sheet contains the opening decoration and three panels (nos. 1-3) with six columns of the text (nos. 1-6).
Opening decoration: The opening section of the scroll is composed of foliate and floral ornaments, inhabited by the "Four animals" - i.e. a lion, an eagle, a leopard, and a stag. They have no direct relationship with the text of the Megillah or the feast of Purim, but they allude to a quotation from Pirkei Avot ("Ethics of the Fathers") 5:20. At the center, there is a flower supported by two rampant lions with split tails. Below two dolphins' masks are visible. A leopard is depicted above the flower in the center and an eagle with outstretched wings in the upper-right corner is shown. Two other animals are represented in the lower part of the decoration.
The first panel is surrounded by a printed and colored border including:
Frame 1 (text panel 1 - upper margin): At the center, within the scenery of the palace gardens, the crowned and bearded King Ahasuerus sits on the throne under a high canopy at a round laid table. He is flanked by three men on the right and four men on the left, all of whom wear turbans and long gowns (Es. 1:3-8). On either side, there are arcaded buildings in which two groups of four figures sit at a table.
Frame 2 (text panel 1 - lower margin): The crowned Vashti, within the scenery of the palace gardens, sits under a high canopy at a round laid table. She is flanked by three women on either side (Es. 1:9). On the right, a group of servants, all wearing turbans, enter the garden through a gate on the right; the first of them addresses the queen. Most likely, they are coming with the king's order that Vashti should appear before him and his guests (Es. 1:10-11). The scene on the left might depict the moment when the queen, after her refusal, is taken from the palace by two men (alluding to Es. 1:19).
The length of the membranes in the scroll: 1) ca. 530 mm, 2) ca. 390 mm, 3) ca. 395 mm, 4) ca. 255 mm.
An average letter is higher than 2 mm.
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Vashti's banquet (Es. 1:9)
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments
A | Animals, the Four (Mishnah, Avot, 5:20)
L | Lion | Lion rampant
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Floral motif
O | Ornamentation: | Endless knot
In general, the scroll is well preserved, however, its state of preservation varies depending on the sheet. The differences concern especially the state of preservation of the text and the coloring of the background on the upper and lower margins.
The second sheet shows diagonal stripes of faded or erased text that in these places is difficult to decipher.
On the third membrane, the text is almost illegible (cols. 13-16) and it contrasts very strongly with the column on the fourth sheet that has been preserved in almost perfect condition (the same is true about its decoration).
The edges of the sheets are straight, but there are some stains on them, e.g. on the third sheet at the top, there is a large wax (?) stain.
The scroll consists of 4 membranes, with 19 text columns each with 23 lines per column, except for col. 16 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
Sheets nos. 1-3 contain 3 double text columns and the last sheet contains a single panel.
The text is inscribed in small Italian square Hebrew script, in black ink on the flesh side of the parchment membranes.
The state of preservation of the text in col. 16 does not allow to determine if the enlarged and diminished letters are inscribed in it; however, it seems that the letter ו in the last line is enlarged. The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are highlighted.
The parchment is bright, rather thick and stiff. Sheet no. 3 is made of a different type of parchment.
The ruling is visible; the least visible are the lines on the first sheet. On all sheets, vertical lines are more strongly marked.
The membranes are stitched together.
The hues of blue paint in which the background was colored vary on the subsequent membranes.
The endless knot patterns were originally decorated with gold paint.
On the second and fourth sheets, there are the seals of the Erlangen University Library.
The scroll is mentioned by Johann Christoph Wagenseil (1633-1705), a German historian, Orientalist, jurist, and Christian Hebraist in his work "Von Erziehung eines jungen Prinzen..." (see "Bibliography"). This is the oldest historical testimony of its existence and at the same time, the earliest mention of the manuscripts adorned with this pattern that is crucial for their dating. Wagenseil claimed that it is the oldest Hebrew manuscript in the world and that is from Persia ("Von Erziehung eines jungen Prinzen..., 229") that must be considered only a metaphor.
The scroll was exhibited on the "Synagoga" exhibition that took place in 1960/1961 in Recklinghausen and in 1961 in Frankfurt am Main (respectively objects B 65 and 128 in the catalogues - see "Bibliography").
The manuscript is mentioned in:
Johann Konrad Irmischer, Handschriften-Katalog der Königlichen Universitäts-Bibliothek zu Erlangen, Frankfurt am Main-Erlangen (Heyder und Zimmer) 1852, 1-2, object 4.
Ernst Roth, Hans Stridl, Lothar Tetzner, Hebräische Handschriften. Teil 2 (Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Bd. VI, 2.), Wiesbaden 1965, object 56.
Synagoga. Kultgeräte und Kunstwerke von der Zeit der Patriarchen bis zur Gegenwart, Städtische Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, 3. November 1960 – 15. Januar 1961, ed. Anneliese Schröder, Recklinghausen 1961, object B 65.
Synagoga. Jüdische Altertümer Handschriften und Kultgeräte. Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, 17. Mai – 16. Juli 1961, Frankfurt am Main 1961, object 128.
Mendel Metzger, Eine illustrierte Estherrolle der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts im Historischen Museum Frankfurt am Main, mit einem Anhang über Megilla-Hülsen, „Schriften des Historischen Museums Frankfurt am Main”, 13 (1972), 95–116.
Theodor Ehrenstein, Das Alte Testament im Bilde: ein Illustrationswerk mit über 2000 Abbildungen, Wien 1923, 911, image 66 (a reproduction of a fragment).
Johann Christoph Wagenseil, Von Erziehung eines jungen Prinzen, der vor allen Studien einen Abscheu hat, daß er dennoch gelehrt und geschickt werde, Leipzig 1705, 229.
The scrolls sharing the same pattern are discussed in:
Dagmara Budzioch, The Decorated Esther Scrolls from the Museum of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Tradition of Megillot Esther Decoration in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries – An Outline [Polish: Dekorowane zwoje Estery z Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Warszawie na tle tradycji dekorowania megillot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warsaw 2019, 1:119-128.
For more information on Wagenseil see e.g.
Harry Zohn, M.C. Davis, Johann Christoph Wagenseil, Polymath, Monatshefte, vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), 35-40.