Opening decoration: The scroll opens with a panel containing several narrative scenes from the Esther story. In the central part of the upper register, the royal couple seated on the throne with a canopy that is placed on a pedestal is represented. The king and the queen are accompanied by courtiers; on the right, the princes of Media and Persia are standing (Es. 1:14) and on the left, there are Esther's maidservants (Es. 2:9). In a rectangular panel, directly below, Esther is shown seated on a throne surrounded by elaborate tendrils, small lions, birds, heads of angels and the Hebrew printed words ברכת מגילה - "blessings for the Megillah". Below, there are three rectangular frames: the central panel contains the benedictions recited before the Megillah reading, the panel on the right shows the chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, hanging on two gallows (Es. 2:23), whereas the one on the left depicts Haman and his sons hanging on three gallows (Es. 7:10 and Es. 9:14 or Es. 9:25). The lowest register contains three episodes that are (from right to left): Mordecai receiving the clothes from Hatach (Es. 4:4), Haman leads Mordecai through the streets of Susa (Es. 6:11), Esther and Mordecai write letters instructing the Jews to observe Purim (Es. 9:29).
Col. 1: In the upper margin, a medallion with a bust of the king flanked by acanthus leaves is depicted. In the lower margin, in the first frame, six men seated at a round laid table are shown. On either side of the table, servants are visible.
In the octagons separating the frames are depicted (from right to left): 1) a vase with flowers, 2) a (palace?) garden with a fountain.
C | Columns
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Foliate motif
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Bigthan and Teresh hanged (Es. 2:23)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Haman's sons hanged (Es. 9:14)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Haman hanged (Es. 7:10)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai receiving clothes from Hatach (Es. 4:4)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai's triumph (Es. 6:11)
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai and Esther writing the Purim letter (Es. 9:29)
L | Lion
L | Landscape
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus' banquet (Es. 1:3-8)
A | Acanthus Leaf
P | Portrait | Portrait medallion
O | Ornamentation: | Architectonic motif
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus and the seven princes of Persia and Media (Es. 1:13-15) | Seven princes of Persia and Media (Es. 1:14)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Seven maidens given to Esther (Es. 2:9)
O | Ornamentation: | Initial word, decorative
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | *Esther's Story Characters (depicted not in narrative scenes): | Ahasuerus, the king
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Haman and his ten sons hanged (Es. 9:25)
The lower margin of the second membrane is seriously damaged; some of its parts are missing.
The sewings are in poor condition and not esthetic.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with the benedictions recited before the Megillah reading and the liturgical poem Asher Heni
The scroll is formed of 3 membranes containing benedictions recited before the Megillah reading + 12 columns of text + a final benediction panel. Each column includes 32 lines of text, except for col. 10 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns (the text in it is printed and not copied by hand).
Every sheet comprises 4 columns of the text each and the last sheet, additionally contains the benediction panel.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script, in brown ink, on the flesh side of parchment membranes.
The scroll opens with an enlarged and bolded initial word.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its size (it is enlarged and bolded), form (it is composed of two elements joined with a roof and it is decorated with scrolled feet). The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged and bolded. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 10, however, this part of the scroll is printed and not penned by a scribe.
The final verse of the scroll is written in larger letters decorated with tagin.
There are some erasures and corrections in the text.
The ruling and pricking are invisible.
The sheets in the scroll are stitched together.
The benedictions: The initial benedictions are inscribed in the semi-cursive letters in the central panel of the opening decoration. All three words ברוך are enlarged and bolded.
The final blessing starts with a printed word ברוך placed in the upper margin and is copied in a square script. In the column below it, the Purim poem is copied in a square script. The letters opening the subsequent verses are enlarged and bolded.
Similar narrative scenes are included in "the scrolls with landscapes" (see their descriptions in the Index); some of them are their mirror image.
The scroll from the JHM collection is an exception because it contains only three sheets and not four as all other megillot decorated with this border. Sheet no. 3 is absent in the scroll, therefore some episodes (e.g. the triumph of Mordecai) are not represented in it.
In the last panel, just below the text of the Megillah, an inscription in Hebrew is written.
A short description of the scroll and images are available on https://data.jck.nl/page/aggregation/jhm-museum/M000414 (accessed on 17.07.2021).
Manuscripts sharing the same pattern are described in:
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.
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, 1:176-188.
Jiřina Šedinová, From the Mss. Collections of the State Jewish Museum in Prague. The Scrolls of Esther, "Judaica Bohemiae" 1979, nr 15/2, 80-83.