The scroll is representative of the type aptly called "scrolls with landscapes II", which features a decorative scheme of four different landscapes framed in cartouches that fill the upper margins and repeat on every sheet in the same order:
1. On the left, two men and a dog stand by a gate overlooking a vast landscape of mountains and trees.
2. On the right, two wanderers are depicted approaching a hill with buildings. On the left, a man on horseback rides towards a bridge over a river. In the background, mountains and trees are visible.
3. A fountain in a garden with a palace in the background.
4. On the right, a man sitting under a tree. In the background, a landscape of mountains, trees, and buildings.
It is difficult to prove a direct connection between the landscapes and the narrative of the Book of Esther, although the possibility of such a connection cannot be excluded (e.g. two men in the second landscape could be the king's messengers and the man sitting under the tree in the fourth landscape could be Mordecai).
The scrolls with landscapes are lavishly decorated megillot produced in a mixed technique in which the decorative border is printed (as a copper engraving, though in some examples, colored by hand), while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The scrolls decorated with this pattern begin with a panel composed of several figurative scenes from the Book of Esther narrative; the exemplar from the London collection lacks this section and it is replaced by a piece of blank parchment. The text columns are separated by herms decorated with reliefs, elaborate acanthus leaves, and garlands above which are either decorative capitals or putti holding baskets with flowers on their heads. The lower margins are filled with the figurative scenes that chronicle the Purim story, sometimes alluding to midrashim or other sources; they are punctuated by vases with plants. The scroll lacks its opening decoration and to its right edge, a short sheet piece of parchment is glued.
The scroll is mounted on a wooden turned roller.
Length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 405 (without an additional piece of parchment: 213x45 mm), 2) 390 mm, 3) ca. 370 mm (parchment is very stiff and due to this it is difficult to measure the manuscript).
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the print: 200x395 mm;
- text panel: 130x70 mm;
- spaces between the text panels: 27 mm;
- frames with illustration(s): 38x75 mm;
- vases separating the illustrations: ca. 25x38 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm;
- letters in col. 14: 5 mm.
The roller: ca. 385 mm (height).
The opening panel is not preserved and it is replaced by a blank piece of parchment with two vertical cuts, possibly for a ribbon.
Some damages in the printed pattern can be seen.
The text is very well preserved.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 3 sheets containing a total of 12 columns of the text with 27 or 28 lines, except for col. 14 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns. Additionally, initial benedictions are written within the opening decoration.
Every sheet contains 4 columns of text.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script in light brown ink on the flesh side of parchment membranes that are rather thin and bright. The blank side of the sheets is more suede, darker, and rather grey.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its form - it is composed of two parts joined with a roof and is decorated with scrolled feet; additionally, it is larger than an average letter in the scroll. Enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14. The final sheet is so stiff that it is very hard to open it, therefore, it could not be determined whether the letter ת (Es. 9:29) is highlighted.
The initial word of the Megillah is enlarged and bolded.
The names of Haman's sons (col. 14) are of the same length; for this purpose, numerous letters are elongated.
The ruling is invisible.
The sheets in the scroll are stitched together.
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" (see in the Index").
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).
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 megilot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warsaw 2019, 1:163-176, 2:41-49.