Lavishly decorated Esther scroll adorned with an engraved border designed by Shalom ben Mordecai Italia (also known as Shalom D'Italia).
The scroll opens with a symmetrical decoration composed of six birds and a prefatory panel with two angels and cartouches. Below the lower cartouche, the name of the artist is printed on the ribbon.
The Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is copied within elaborately decorated arcades on which ornamentation of the upper margins is placed. They are filled with repetitive elements: two women with their heads turned away from one another, holding palm branches and leaning on broken pediments (possibly an allegory of Peace), flower-filled vases placed inside the pediments and between them, and decorative masks. In the elongated cartouches placed at the top of the arches, various land- and cityscapes are included. Full figures of four Esther story protagonists: Ahasuerus, Esther, Mordecai, and Haman are placed in the niches between the text panels (they repeat on the membranes). They stand on small octagonal pedestals on which land- and seascapes are depicted; they show four different rural landscapes, two landscapes with a river and a boat on it, a river and a carriage, and a sea with boats on it. The same engraved metal plate was used for all membranes and due to this, the decorative scheme repeats along with the entire length of the scroll.
To the left edge of the last membrane, a wooden rod is stitched.
The rod: 155 mm (height).
A | Arch
C | Columns
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Esther story protagonists
A | Allegory
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
L | Landscape
G | Garland
M | Mask
A | Angel
B | Bird
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
The manuscript is preserved in good condition, although some parts of the border are poorly printed and on the first membrane, they are supplemented by hand-drawings in brown ink, possibly the same that was used for writing the text.
There are some orange stains on the membranes.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 5 sheets, in total containing 31 columns of text with 18 lines each, except for col. 26 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The number of text columns per sheet: no. 1 - 6 columns, nos. 2-4 - 8 columns, no. 5 - 1 column.
The text is written in Hebrew square script with tagin in dark brown ink on parchment membranes.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is very wide and highlighted by its shape as it is formed of two elements joined with a roof. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 26.
In cols. 25 and 30 are numerous elongated letters.
The ruling is made with a hard point; it is well visible in col. 26.
The pricking is invisible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
There are several scrolls sharing the same pattern and others adorned with different borders designed by the same artist (see "Related objects").
On the right edge, numerous tiny holes are visible; it seems a piece of fabric was stitched underneath the opening section of the scroll.
In the upper cartouche of the opening decoration, there are remains of a Hebrew inscription:
מתנה מאת... יוסף בהר אליעזר משה פראר
In the lower cartouche of the opening decoration, there is a Hebrew inscription of the owner, Benjamin Zev ben Juda Shtockfish (?):
זה מגילה שייך להק' (?) בנימין זאב בר''ה יהודה שטאקפיש
This inscription appears in the place where the name of the original owner was written, but it has been erased.
Below the opening decoration, the date according to the Hebrew calendar is written - 629:
ונכתב בהספר ק
The scroll is described in:
George Margoliouth, Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols (London: British Museum, 1899-1935; vols I-III repr. 1965); IV, Introduction, Indexes, ed. by Jacob Leveen (London: British Museum, 1977), no. 43.
Images of the scroll are available on http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Or_4786 (accessed on 2.09.2021).
Bibliography concerning the scrolls designed by Shalom Italia or attributed to him:
Sharon Assaf, Emily D. Bilski, Salom Italia's Esther Scrolls and the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam 2011.
A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, eds. E.M. Cohen, E. Schrijver, S. Liberman Mintz, Amsterdam 2009, 228-231 (describes another scroll designed by Shalom Italia).
Michael Garel, An Esther Scroll by Shalom Italia, "The Israel Museum Journal" 5 (Spring 1986), 107–108.
Mordecai Narkiss, Yeẓurato shel Shalom ben rabbi Mordechai Italia (1619–1655?) [The Oeuvre of the Jewish Engraver Salom Italia (1619–1655?)], "Tarbiz" 25(4), 1956, 441–451, and: ibidem no. 26(1), 1957, 87–101.
Shalom Sabar, A New Discovery: The Earliest Illustrated Esther Scroll by Shalom Italia, „Ars Judaica” 2012, no. 8, 119–136.
Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menahem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, 274‒279.