The scroll represents the type called Gaster I (for the explanation of the name see "Additional Remarks") that are lavishly decorated megillot produced in a mixed technique in which decorative border is printed as copper engraving and colored by hand whereas the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The opening section is precisely filled with a rich decoration formed of tendrils, flowers, and animals that surround the cartouche. The upper and lower margins are adorned with repeating endless knot motifs alternating with 20 cartouches enclosing one up to three scenes that chronicle the narrative of the Book of Esther. The ten text panels, in which nineteen text columns are included, are interspersed by stylized floral decoration. The same scheme repeats on all three membranes forming each scroll from this group. The pattern ends with a symmetrical decoration composed of large flowers and foliate ornaments surrounding a cartouche. The manuscript is incomplete; it lacks a fragment of the third membrane that should contain the final decoration. The scroll is an exception among the manuscripts from this group because it is printed in orange-brown ink, its cartouches and endless knot ornaments are painted gold, and the color scheme includes the hues that cannot be found in any other scroll representing Gaster I type.
The scroll is mounted on a wooden roller.
The roller is 280 mm high.
The manuscript is incomplete; it lacks a fragment of the third membrane that should contain the final decoration.
To the left edge of the last membrane, a short piece of parchment is stitched; it joins the manuscript with the wooden rod.
The scroll is preserved in good condition even if the membranes are folded in a few places. Also, the text is preserved in very good condition.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll consists of 3 membranes with 19 columns written in 9 double text panels and a single panel. They contain 22 lines per column, except for col. 16 with 11 lines (the section lists the names of Haman's sons that are inscribed in a popular layout, in a larger script).
The membranes contain respectively 6, 8, and 5 text columns.
Written on the flesh side in a small, square Italian script with tagin, in black in ink.
The cartouche in the opening decoration contains a short text written in the Latin alphabet: "Ex Dono Vitta Lauda Dei Formiggini 1781". It probably starts with the donation formula ("ex dono") that literally means "from a gift of", "gift of [the name of a donor]." It can be followed by the name of the eighteenth-century owner of the scroll, a member of the Formiggini family. The archival documents preserve the name of Vita Laudadio Formiggini (1690–1766) that is similar to three subsequent words in the note, however, he died before 1781 - the year that ends the inscription. Unquestionably, the date from the end of the 18th century cannot be the date of the manuscripts' creation; it can commemorate another event e.g. the donation of the scroll.
The name "Gaster I" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in an article entitled "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" published in the "Bulletin of the John Rylands Library" (48:2 (1966), 381‒432, esp. 390). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and manuscript collector of whose collections a scroll adorned with this pattern formed a part (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 710 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections.
The pattern features a number of decorative elements common with the scrolls of Klagsbald type (see ID 31).
The scroll is an exception among the manuscripts decorated with the same pattern because the background of the endless knot motifs is partly painted in different colors. Similarly, the background of the floral decorations interspersing the text panels is filled with multicolored tempera. Some of the colors discernible in the manuscript (e.g. violet) cannot be found in any other scroll representing the same pattern. This can suggest that it was finished in another place or the decoration was re-painted in a later period.
No details concerning the ruling and pricking cannot be determined solely on the basis of the images.
Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Estense Library:
Carlo Bernheimer, Catalogo dei manoscritti orientali della Biblioteca Estense, Roma 1960, 20, object 13.
Annie Sacerdoti, Arte e cultura ebraiche in Emilia-Romagna: [Exposición Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Paradiso 20 settembre 1988 - 15 gennaio 1989], Arnoldo Mondadori Editore - De Luca Edizioni del Arte 1988. On p. 161 the scroll is listed as object no. 106 (there is a short description of it), while the photo of the opening part of the manuscript is under no. 104.
The panoramic image of the complete manuscript available: Megillah (Rotolo di Ester), in ebraico. Manoscritto membranaceo, sec. XVII, Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria: http://www.clponline.it/mostre/angelo-fortunato-formiggini-ridere-leggere-e-scrivere-nell%E2%80%99italia-del-primo-novecento (accessed on 16.04.2020)
Bibliography concerning other scrolls decorated with the same border: