Sheet no. 3
Cartouche 15 (upper margin): On the right, Ahasuerus sits on a canopied throne, holding a scepter in one hand and pointing at Mordecai with the other. Mordecai stands before him wearing a turban and an overcoat, bowing slightly before the king (Es. 8:15). In the center part of this cartouche, figures are depicted fighting in a field; two men are lying on the ground. This is surely one of the moments when Jews battle their enemies, but it is difficult to determine which particular verse is illustrated here (Es. 9:5-12). On the left, five men sit around a table laden with food. The scene most likely depicts the happiness of the Jews at the news of the king's new decree (Es. 8:16-17).
Cartouche 16 (lower margin): Several figures are depicted fighting in a field flanked by buildings. Four soldiers holding spears emerge from the left and several bodies already lay on the ground. The scene can depict either the Jews defending themselves against their enemies (Es. 9:5-12) or the additional day of fighting between the Jews and their enemies (Es. 9:15-16).
Cartouche 17 (upper margin): On the right, Ahasuerus sits on the throne under a canopy and holds a scepter. The crowned Esther kneels before him, attended by her two maid-servants; she is likely asking the king to hang Haman's sons (Es. 9:13). On the left, Haman's ten sons are hanging on the same gallows with their hands tied. Two guards, holding spears, stand on either side of the gallows (Es. 9:14).
Cartouche 18 (lower margin): Seven men with turbans on their heads sit around a long table laden with food. Two servants carrying trays go out of the room from both sides (Es. 9:17).
Cartouche 19 (upper margin): On the right, the crowned Esther sits in an armchair at a table and writes the Purim letter. This is witnessed by two men wearing turbans who stand next to the table (Es. 9:29). On the left, two mounted messengers ride towards a city (Es. 9:30).
Cartouche 20 (lower margin): Five men wearing masks and tall pointed hats are dancing in a circle and playing musical instruments. The scene most likely depicts a Purim celebration contemporary to the manuscript's creator.
Final decoration: The symmetrical composition of flowers and tendrils surrounds an empty cartouche.
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 530 mm, 2) ca. 520 mm, 3) ca. 540 mm (the sheets are wavy, and they cannot be measured precisely).
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the print: 165 mm (height);
- floral decorations between the panels: 91x32 mm;
- upper and lower margins: 32 mm;
- cartouche with illustration(s): 97 mm (width);
- an average letter: higher than 1 mm;
- the letters in col. 16: 4 mm (height).
The roller: ca. 345 mm (height).
O | Ornamentation: | Endless knot
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai before Ahasuerus in royal apparel (Es. 8:15)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour (Es. 8:16-17)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Jews battle their enemies (Es. 9:5-12)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Esther asks the king to hang Haman's sons (Es. 9:13)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Haman's sons hanged (Es. 9:14)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Additional day of fighting (Es. 9:15-16)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | First Purim feast (Es. 9:17-23)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Esther writing the Purim letter (Es. 9:29)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Messenger(s) delivering the letter to all provinces (Es. 9:30)
P | Purim | Purim celebration
P | Purim | Purim costume
In general, the scroll is very well preserved - the membranes are in very good condition and the printed border is intact.
The text is relatively well preserved. On the first sheet of the scroll, the text is preserved in the best condition and it contrasts very strongly with the text on the second sheet that is preserved in worse condition than in other places (the second layer of ink is visible here and its shade is different). Some parts of the text are erased.
A part of the roller is damaged.
The scroll is formed of 3 sheets containing 19 columns of the text with 22 lines, except for col. 16 with 11 lines divided into two parts.
The number of text columns per sheet: no. 1 – 6, no. 2 – 8 columns, no. 3 - 5.
The text is inscribed in Hebrew square Italian script with tagin, in dark brown (almost black) ink on the flesh side of the parchment membranes, which are stiff and bright.
The thickness of the sheets varies – the thinnest is the last sheet in the scroll. Both sides of the membranes are different – the blank side is rather yellow and very smooth.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its form - it contains two elements joined with a roof; a few other letters ח are inscribed in the same way in the scroll. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged and bolded. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16. Additionally, in col. 16 two words – איש and עשרת – are smaller than all other words in the column.
Some words that were omitted by a scribe are added above the lines of the text.
The ruling – horizontal and vertical lines - is made with a hardpoint, only inside the text panels. The lines are well visible on the blank sides of the sheets.
The pricking on the third sheet is visible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
The name "Gaster I" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in his article entitled "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" (see "Bibliography"). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and manuscript collector, who owned a scroll adorned with this pattern (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 710 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester - ID 36150). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".
The pattern features a number of decorative elements common with the scrolls of Klagsbald type.
Some details in the scroll – a part of endless knot ornaments and decorative belts along with the sheets - have have been originally painted gold; at present, the paint is not preserved. The number "add. 1013" is inscribed above the first endless knot motif in the upper margin. The library’s stamp on the blank side of the sheet is visible.
According to Reif (see "Bibliography"): "Bought in 1873 from Fischl Hirsh."
Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Cambridge University Library:
Stefan C. Reif, Hebrew Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Cambridge 1997, 52.
Selected bibliography concerning other scrolls decorated with the same border:
Mendel Metzger, The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 1966, 48/2, 381–432.
Cornelia Bodea, Treasures of Jewish Art. The 1673 Illuminated Scroll of Esther Offered to a Romanian Hierarch, Iaşi–Oxford–Palm Beach–Portland 2002.
A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, eds. Evelyn M. Cohen, Emile Schrijver, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Amsterdam 2009, 240-241.
Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menahem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, 262-263.
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, 1:99-119, 2:64-69.
Dagmara Budzioch, "An Illustrated Scroll of Esther from the Collection of the Jewish Historical Institute as an Example of the Gaster I Megilloth," Kwartalnik Historii Żydów 2013, no. 3 (247), 533–547.