The text of the Book of Esther is not decorated except for the final section of the scroll. In the architectural frame with Hebrew inscription by the manuscript's maker and owner, a decorative cartouche is placed. It features a family emblem composed of three hills flanked by two lions facing each other. Each of them supports its hind leg on one of the hills and holds an ear and its front paw.
The scroll is accompanied by a separate benediction sheet that is decorated with arches.
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 490 mm, 2) 650 mm, 3) 640 mm, 4) 505 mm, 5) 550 mm, 6) 580 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the decoration at the end of the manuscript: 250x290 mm;
- the cartouche in it: 140x115 mm;
- text column: 195x138 mm;
- upper and lower margins: 33 mm;
- spaces between the text columns: 23 mm;
- an average letter: 4 mm (height);
- enlarged letters: 7 mm (height);
- spaces between the lines: 5 mm (height).
The scroll is preserved in good condition (the text, decoration, and parchment).
There is a large stain on the 2nd sheet.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with benedictions on a separate sheet
The scroll is formed of 6 sheets containing 19 columns of the text with 22 lines, except for col. 16 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square Italian script with Sephardi features decorated with tagin, in black ink on the flesh side of parchment sheets that are thick and stiff. Both sides are not the same - the flesh side is brighter, smoother, and more matt than the other one.
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.
All names of Haman's sons are of equal width. Thanks to the elongated letter ש also, the word איש at the top of the column is of the same width.
The ruling is made with a hardpoint. In general, it is barely visible; more visible are vertical lines and horizontal lines in blank spaces.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
According to the Hebrew note at the end of the manuscript - it was written by Shmuel ben Moshe Castelnuovo in the month of Kislev of 5515 ; the date is inscribed as a chronogram.
זאת המגילה שלי שלמה ב'מ'ב' משה מקסטלנובו
כתבתי לחדש כסלו בשנת ה'ת'ק'י'ה'
To the inscription, a quotation from the Book of Esther is added (Es. 8:16):
היתה אורה ליהודים ושמחה וששון ויקר
The scroll is an example of an owner-made manuscript.
The lions and hills in the coat of arms could originally be painted with gold paint; now they are rather green.
There are quite large fragments of the text that must have been corrected.
There is also the so-called Castelnuovo megillah (Ms. Heb. 4°197/20, NLI, Jerusalem) that was believed to be the oldest decorated Esther scroll in existence (see Mendel Metzger, "The John Rylands Megillah and Some Other Illustrated Megilloth of the 15th to 17th Centuries", Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 1962 (45), 165–166). However, according to the recent research it is dated to 1628.
Acquired from Sergio Haim Castelnuovo on 29th September 2009. The gift in memory of his wife, Luciana, and his parents, Silvana Ascarelli (1905-1994) and Paolo Castelnuovo (1903-1987).