One of three extant copies decorated with engravings by Andrea Marelli (the only with colored borders) that are the earliest Esther scrolls decorated with printed borders. In this scroll, each sheet is decorated with a different composition that encloses a double column of text (except for the last panel that contains a single text column). The borders are formed from garlands of fruits, masks, grotesque figures, satyrs and satyresses, pagan goddesses, atlases, putti, and accompanied by animals, both real (e.g. dogs, cats, ostriches) and fantastic ones (e.g. dragons, unicorns).
The scroll is mounted on a contemporary wooden roller; the original one is stored in the box, together with the manuscript.
Summary and Remarks
The engravings adorning the scroll were originally created to enframe decorative letters in the manual of the Latin alphabet calligraphy Il perfetto scrittore by Francesco Giovanni Cresci, printed in Rome in 1570.
Another scroll decorated with printed borders by Marelli is stored in the Klau Library at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati (manuscript no. 1 (IX.6)); it is available on https://mss.huc.edu/manuscripts/esther-scroll-ix-6/ accessed on 2.09.2021). Yet another exemplar was sold at the Christie's at auction 2537: Silver, Judaica, Russian Works of Art and Objects of Vertu on 18th June 2002, lot 389 (https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-highly-important-and-rare-16th-century-italian-3932181/? accessed on 2.09.2021).
Some details could be originally painted gold.
The manuscript is stored in a box (see image ID 355972).
Membrane no. 10: 285 mm (length).
The roller: 290 mm (height).
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 10 sheets (9 of them are original and 1 is new), in total containing 18 columns of text with 23 lines each, except for col. 15 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
Each membrane contains 2 columns of text.
The text is written in Hebrew square Italian script with tagin in dark brown ink on parchment membranes.
The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is slightly larger than an average letter in the scroll. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 15.
The ruling is made with a hard point and is barely visible.
The pricking is invisible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together and resewn with thin parchment slips.
The previous owner, Hayim Montaggio, presented it to the British Museum in 1895.
Eva Frojmovic, The «Perfect Scribe» and an Early Engraved Esther Scroll, „The British Library Journal” 23 (1997), pp. 68‒80.
The description of the manuscript and its images are available on https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/megilat-ester-or-13028 (accessed 2.09.2021).
Original calligraphic letters by Marelli are available on https://collections.vam.ac.uk (accessed 2.09.2021).
The beginning of the scroll is poorly preserved; the blank side of the sheet is very dark.
The edges are not straight and there is some dirt on them.
On the last sheet, traces of bark beetles can be seen.
The paints in the manuscript have been preserved in different conditions
The original roller lacks a part of its finial.