Under Reconstruction!
Art Alone
© Cambridge University Library, Photographer: Unknown,

Opening decoration: The scroll opens with a panel containing several narrative scenes from the Esther story. In the decorative panel, in the central part of the upper register, there is the royal couple seated on the throne with a canopy that is placed on a pedestal. The king and queen are accompanied by courtiers; on the right, the princes of Media and Persia are standing (Es. 1:14), and Esther's maidservants stand on the left (Es. 2:9). Below, there are three rectangular frames: the central panel contains the benedictions recited before the Megillah reading, while the panel on the right shows the chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, hanging on two gallows (Es. 2:23), and the panel on the left depicts Haman and his sons hanging on three gallows (Es. 7:10 and Es. 9:14 or Es. 9:25). The lowest register contains three episodes (from right to left): Mordecai receiving the clothes from Hatakh (Es. 4:4), Haman leading Mordecai through the streets of Susa (Es. 6:11), and Esther and Mordecai writing letters instructing the Jews to observe Purim (Es. 9:29). 

Landscapes nos. 1-4 are printed in the upper margin, and in the lower margin, there are frames with illustrations nos. 1-4:

Frame 1 depicts the feast of Ahasuerus (Es. 1:3-8), with six men seated at a round laden table. There are servants standing on either side of the table.

Frame 2 depictsQueen Vashti's execution. She is being strangled by two women standing on either side of her. She stands with her arms spread, and her crown lies on the floor. It is relevant to note that the Book of Esther does not mention the fate of Vashti after her refusal of the king's order, and thus the source for this illustration remains unknown. The same theme, though depicted in a slightly different way, can be found in the "Esther scrolls with portrait medallions" and their copies made by hand, as well as in the scrolls designed by Marcus Donath (Mordecai ben Jozl Sofer) of Nitra (see their descriptions in the Index).

Frame 3 contains an illustration of the walled city. In the central part of the wall, there is a gate at which a man (Mordecai) is seated (Es. 2:19, 2:21).

Frame 4: Ahasuerus and Esther's wedding ceremony is shown in this frame. The scene is witnessed by a group of men standing on the right and a group of women standing on the left. The Book of Esther does not mention this episode in its text. Thus, the source for this representation remains unknown, though it may have been influenced by European paintings in which the scene of the marriage of the Virgin Mary and Josef was similarly composed. This can also explain the dress of a man standing in the center that refers to the high priest's robes. The same theme, although illustrated in a slightly different way, can be found in the "Esther scrolls with portrait medallions" and their copies made by hand, as well as in the scrolls designed by Marcus Donath (Mordecai ben Jozl Sofer) of Nitra (see their descriptions in the Index).

CUL Esther Scroll with Landscapes I | Unknown
Object Detail
sheet 1 (opening decoration and cols. 1-4)
early 18th century
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Unknown (Unknown)
Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Scrolls with landscapes|

The family of Dutch Esther scrolls from the early 18th century designed by an anonymous engraver whose decorative scheme is characterized by four different landscapes framed in cartouches of different shapes that fill upper margins. The scrolls of this family begin with a panel composed of several figurative scenes from the Book of Esther narrative. The text columns are interspaced by the columns decorated with reliefs, elaborate acanthus leaves and garlands above which are either decorative capitals or putti holding the baskets with flowers on their heads. Lower margins are filled with the figurative scenes that chronicle the Purim story or allude to midrashim and other sources; they are interspersed by vases with plants. The same decoration repeats on all four sheets forming each manuscript. Some of their exemplars are painted by hand.

Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Ink on parchment (handwritten text, printed decoration)
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
The scroll: ca. 170 x ca. 1680 mm
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 495 mm, 2) ca. 400 mm, 3) ca. 395 mm, 4) ca. 390 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the print: ca. 166 mm (height);
- text panel: 94x69 mm (inside);
- illustration: 39x73 mm (outside);
- decorations between text columns: ca. 30 mm (width);
- landscapes: 24 x ca. 68 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm (height);
- an average letter in the benedictions: 3 mm (height).
The rod: ca. 190 mm (height).
Panel Measurements
A part of the opening decoration is missing. Some yellow or orange stains on the sheets are visible. The print is very well preserved except for a small part of the frame no. 9. The blank side of the opening part of the scroll is dark and dirty.
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Languages of inscription
Type of grave

The Book of Esther in Hebrew proceeded by the initial benedictions


The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing 16 columns of the text with 24 lines on sheets nos. 1-3 and 27 lines on sheet no. 4. Col. 14 contains 11 lines divided into two parts.

Every sheet contains 4 columns of text.

The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script with tagin, in brown (lighter and darker shades) and black ink on the flesh side of the parchment membranes that are rather thin, rather grey, and suede. Both sides of the membranes are difficult to distinguish.

The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its form - it contains two elements joined with a roof and is decorated by scroll feet. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is slightly larger than other letters in the scroll. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.

The incipit is written in larger letters than an average letter in the scroll; the word is separated from the rest of the text in the column.

The scroll includes some letters פ with a tendril inside.

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 lines are barely visible.  

The membranes in the scroll are stitched.

The pricking is visible on the blank space between the opening decoration and the border; they are visible on the blank side of the sheet too.

The benedictions – their opening word is not highlighted in any way as it was customary. The Tetragrammaton is replaced by 2 letters י and a ligature of א and ל letters.

Number of Lines
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year


Scribal Notes
Trade Mark
Decoration Program
Summary and Remarks

There are two variants of the scrolls decorated with this pattern that in the Index are marked "I" and "II". In some exemplars, just below the decorative herms, the pedestals with angel's heads and bases were added, therefore, the text panels are higher; this type is marked with "II". Whereas, the rest of the manuscripts containing no pedestals with angel's heads and bases are marked with "I". The latter are more numerous. 

Similar narrative scenes are included in the scrolls with "portrait medallions".

The earliest scroll sharing a similar engraved pattern is dated to 1701; this is the megillah BCM 25 from the Braginsky Collection in Zurich (see http://braginskycollection.com/esther-scrolls/; accessed on 22.04.2020).

A part of the word עשרת in col. 14 is written on the print.

Suggested Reconsdivuction
According to Reif (see "Bibliography"): "Bought in 1875 from J. Saphir." The number of the manuscript and library’s stamp are visible at its beginning, on the blank side of the sheet.
Main Surveys & Excavations

Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Cambridge University Library:

Stefan C. Reif, Hebrew Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Cambridge 1997, 51.

The scrolls sharing the same or similar pattern are discussed for example in:

Jiřina Šedinová, From the Mss. Collections of the State Jewish Museum in Prague. The Scrolls of Esther, "Judaica Bohemiae" 1979, nr 15/2, 79-80.

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, 234-237.

Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menahem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, 282-283.

Victor Klagsbald, Catalogue raisonné de la collection juive du Musée de Cluny, Paris 1981, 63-64, object 72.

Falk Wiesemann, Codex hebraicus 159, [in:] Irina Wandrey ed., Manuscript Cultures, vol. 6, 257-259.

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], Warszawa 2019, 1:163-176, 2:41-49.

Short Name
Full Name
Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Language Editor
Negative/Photo. No.