Img. ID: 340689
Sheet no. 1
The decorative scheme surrounding cols. 3, 4, and 5 contains arcades that support a balustrade located in the upper margin with pairs of turkeys and roosters flanking the cartouches above each arch. Flower-filled vases atop each column separate these decorative illuminations. The lower margin is filled with figurative scenes that chronicle the narrative of the Book of Esther:
Frame 3: on the right, Ahasuerus sits on his throne, accompanied by the seven princes of Persia and Media (Es. 1:14). He holds a scepter in his left hand and his other hand points to a man, most likely Memucan, who stands before him. Six other men stand behind Memucan (?) and there is a soldier behind the king's throne. The scene illustrates the moment when the king asks his advisers for advice regarding the fate of Vashti (Es. 1:13-20). On the left, two royal messengers ride on horseback towards a city in the background (Es. 1:21-23).
Frame 4: in the center of this frame, a group of women is brought into the king's court (Es. 2:1-4), lead by a man who is most likely Hegai (Es. 2:8); possibly the first of them is Esther. On the left side of the background, there is a carriage.
In col. 4 only 8 lines of the text are visible; the rest of the text is erased, similarly as in col. 5
Sheet no. 2
Frame 5: in the center, King Ahasuerus is seated on a canopied throne and is flanked by eight men sitting on benches. The King's arms are outstretched and he holds a crown in his right hand. He is about to place this crown on the head of Esther who kneels before him. Behind her stand four women (Es. 2:17).
Length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 610 mm, 2) 690 mm, 3) 465 mm, 4) 755 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- an average frame: 30x85 mm;
- the balustrade: ca. 20 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm (height);
- spaces between the lines: 2 mm.
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
C | Cock (Hen, Rooster)
T | Turkey (bird)
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Flower
C | Columns
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus and the seven princes of Persia and Media (Es. 1:13-15)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Memucan advises the king regarding the fate of Vashti (Es. 1:19)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus sending letters (Es. 1:22)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Hegai taking Esther and the maiden(s) to the palace (Es. 2:8)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Coronation of Esther (Es. 2:17)
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
The manuscript is preserved in fair condition; it lacks its opening part and some damages are visible.
There are some damages in the final part of the scroll too and losses in the sheets' edges.
The text is damaged, a substantial part of it is erased, seriously faded, or restored with a second layer of ink.
The illustrations are well preserved.
Blue paint is faded.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with the initial and final benedictions for the Megillah reading.
The scroll is formed of 4 membranes containing in total 19 columns of text with 23 lines each, except for col. 16 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The number of text columns per sheet: no. 1 - 4, no. 2 - 6, no. 3 - 4, no. 4 - 5.
The text is inscribed in Hebrew square Italian script in brown ink of different hues, on the flesh side of parchment membranes. Some parts of the text are copied in black ink, but this may be a second layer applied later.
The sheets are made of very thick and stiff parchment. Their blank side is rather dark and rough.
The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are highlighted by their size. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16.
The ruling - made with a hard point - is barely visible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
The benedictions: the initial benedictions are inscribed in the cartouche that is a central part of the opening decoration. The first six words of the blessings are abbreviated.
The final benediction and the poem for Purim are written at the end of the scroll; they are integrated into the outermost part of the decoration. The layout of the text is totally irregular.
The name "Gaster II" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in his article "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" (see "Bibliography"). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and Judaica collector whose collections included a scroll adorned with this pattern (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 711 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester - the manuscript described here). At least 8 manuscripts representing this type are known; they are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".
The decorative scheme of Gaster II scrolls shows common features with the Griselini and Griselini-Related scrolls (see "Griselini scrolls" and "Griselini-Related scrolls" in the Index), whereas the narrative scenes are the same as in the scrolls representing the Klagsbald type (see in the Index). The exception is frame no. 19 that in Gaster II scrolls joins the illustrations no. 19 and 20 from Klagsbald scrolls.
The general layout of the decoration is the same in all exemplars of Gaster II scrolls, however, particular manuscripts differ in detail; especially their opening decorations vary.
In the manuscript, some details are painted in white, an exception for the scrolls representing this group.
Originally, some details (e.g. flowers on the columns' bases) possibly were painted in gold but at present only green shade is visible.
Around some illustrations, blots of ink are visible.
The scroll belonged to Moses Gaster's (1856–1939) collection. In his hand-written catalogue, it is listed under no. 711. At the beginning of the scroll, in its upper margin, there is an inscription in black ink: "711 M. Gaster".
The manuscript is described in:
Mendel Metzger, "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth", Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 48:2 (1966), 381‒432.
Its images (nos. JRL16041358-JRL16041368) are available on https://luna.manchester.ac.uk (accessed on 28.10.2020).
The scrolls representing the same or similar pattern are discussed in:
Hebrew and Judaic manuscripts in Amsterdam public collections Catalogue of the manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, University Library of Amsterdam eds. L. Fuks and R. G. Fuks-Mansfeld, Leiden 1973.
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 megilot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warsaw 2019, 1:124-134, 322.