The opening section of the scroll is filled with tendril and acanthus leaves that are inhabited by the "Four animals" - i.e. a lion, an eagle, a leopard, and a stag. They have no direct relationship with the text of the Megillah or the feast of Purim, but they allude to a quotation from Pirkei Avot - "Ethics of the Fathers" (5:23). At the center, there is a decorative cartouche with the inscription in the Latin alphabet (for the text of it see Scribal Notes) supported by two rampant lions with split tails. Below there are two dolphins' masks.
The roller is 280 mm high.
The manuscript is incomplete; it lacks a fragment of the third membrane that should contain the final decoration.
To the left edge of the last membrane, a short piece of parchment is stitched; it joins the manuscript with the wooden rod.
The scroll is preserved in good condition even if the membranes are folded in a few places. Also, the text is preserved in very good condition.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll consists of 3 membranes with 19 columns written in 9 double text panels and a single panel. They contain 22 lines per column, except for col. 16 with 11 lines (the section lists the names of Haman's sons that are inscribed in a popular layout, in a larger script).
The membranes contain respectively 6, 8, and 5 text columns.
The text is written on the flesh side in a small, square Italian script with tagin, in black in ink.
No details concerning the ruling and pricking cannot be determined solely on the basis of the images.
The cartouche in the opening decoration contains a short text written in the Latin alphabet: "Ex Dono Vitta Lauda Dei Formiggini 1781". It probably starts with the donation formula ("ex dono") that literally means "from a gift of", "gift of [the name of a donor]." It is followed by the name of the eighteenth-century owner of the scroll, a member of the Formiggini family. The archival documents preserve the name of Vita Laudadio Formiggini (1690–1766), which is similar to three subsequent words in the note; however, he died before 1781 - the year that ends the inscription. Unquestionably, the date from the end of the 18th century cannot be the date of the manuscripts' creation; it could commemorate another event, such as the donation of the scroll.
The name "Gaster I" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in his article entitled "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" (see "Bibliography"). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and manuscript collector, who owned a scroll adorned with this pattern (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 710 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester - ID 36150). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".
The pattern features a number of decorative elements common with the scrolls of Klagsbald type.
The scroll is an exception among the manuscripts decorated with the same pattern because the background of the endless knot motifs is partly painted in different colors. Similarly, the background of the floral decorations interspersing the text panels is filled with multicolored tempera. Some of the colors discernible in the manuscript (e.g. violet) cannot be found in any other scroll representing the same pattern. This can suggest that it was finished in another place or the decoration was re-painted in a later period.
Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Estense Library:
Carlo Bernheimer, Catalogo dei manoscritti orientali della Biblioteca Estense, Roma 1960, 20, object 13.
Annie Sacerdoti, Arte e cultura ebraiche in Emilia-Romagna: [Exposición Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Paradiso 20 settembre 1988 - 15 gennaio 1989], Arnoldo Mondadori Editore - De Luca Edizioni del Arte 1988. On p. 161 the scroll is listed as object no. 106 (there is a short description of it), while the photo of the opening part of the manuscript is under no. 104.
The panoramic image of the complete manuscript available: Megillah (Rotolo di Ester), in ebraico. Manoscritto membranaceo, sec. XVII, Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria: http://www.clponline.it/mostre/angelo-fortunato-formiggini-ridere-leggere-e-scrivere-nell%E2%80%99italia-del-primo-novecento (accessed on 16.04.2020)
Selected bibliography concerning other scrolls decorated with the same border:
Mendel Metzger, The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 1966, 48/2, 381–432.
Cornelia Bodea, Treasures of Jewish Art. The 1673 Illuminated Scroll of Esther Offered to a Romanian Hierarch, Iaşi–Oxford–Palm Beach–Portland 2002.
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, 240-241.
Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menahem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, 262-263.
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, 1:99-119, 2:64-69.
Dagmara Budzioch, "An Illustrated Scroll of Esther from the Collection of the Jewish Historical Institute as an Example of the Gaster I Megilloth," Kwartalnik Historii Żydów 2013, no. 3 (247), 533–547.