The scroll is representative of the type aptly called "scrolls with landscapes I", 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; in this scroll, they are not entirely preserved. In the central panel of the opening decoration, the benedictions recited before the Megillah reading. 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.
A wooden rod is stitched to the left edge of the last membrane.
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 495 mm, 2) ca. 400 mm, 3) ca. 395 mm, 4) ca. 390 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the print: ca. 166 mm (height);
- text panel: 94x69 mm (inside);
- illustration: 39x73 mm (outside);
- decorations between text columns: ca. 30 mm (width);
- landscapes: 24 x ca. 68 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm (height);
- an average letter in the benedictions: 3 mm (height).
The rod: ca. 190 mm (height).
The Book of Esther in Hebrew proceeded by the initial benedictions
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing 16 columns of the text with 24 lines on sheets nos. 1-3 and 27 lines on sheet no. 4. Col. 14 contains 11 lines divided into two parts.
Every sheet contains 4 columns of text.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script with tagin, in brown (lighter and darker shades) and black ink on the flesh side of the parchment membranes that are rather thin, rather grey, and suede. Both sides of the membranes are difficult to distinguish.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its form - it contains two elements joined with a roof and is decorated by scroll feet. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is slightly larger than other letters in the scroll. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.
The incipit is written in larger letters than an average letter in the scroll; the word is separated from the rest of the text in the column.
The scroll includes some letters פ with a tendril inside.
The ruling – horizontal and vertical lines - is made with a hardpoint, only inside the text panels. The lines are well visible on the blank sides of the sheets. The lines are barely visible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched.
The pricking is visible on the blank space between the opening decoration and the border; they are visible on the blank side of the sheet too.
The benedictions – their opening word is not highlighted in any way as it was customary. The Tetragrammaton is replaced by 2 letters י and a ligature of א and ל letters.
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".
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).
A part of the word עשרת in col. 14 is written on the print.
Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Cambridge University Library:
Stefan C. Reif, Hebrew Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Cambridge 1997, 51.
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 megillot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warszawa 2019, 1:163-176, 2:41-49.