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© Dagmara Budzioch, Photographer: Budzioch, Dagmara, 29.10.2010

Opening decoration: The opening section of this scroll is composed of foliate and floral ornaments in which the "Four animals" - i.e. a lion, an eagle, a leopard, and a stag - are interspersed. 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 empty cartouche that is supported by two lions with split tails. Below there are two dolphins' masks.

Cartouche 1 (upper margin): In the center of this cartouche, a crowned and bearded depiction of King Ahasuerus sits on a canopied throne in front of a laden table in the palace gardens. He is flanked by three men on the right and four men on the left, all of whom wear turbans and long gowns (Es. 1:3-8). On either side, there are arcaded buildings in which two groups of four figures sit at a table.

Cartouche 2 (lower margin): A crowned Vashti sits under a high canopy at a round laden table in the palace gardens. She is flanked by three women on either side. On the right, a group of servants, all wearing turbans, enter the garden through a gate; the first of them addresses the queen. They most likely come with the king's order that Vashti should appear before him and his guests (Es. 1:10-11). The second scene (on the left) most likely depicts the moment when the queen, after her refusal, is taken from the palace by two men (alluding to Es. 1:19).

Cartouche 3 (upper margin): On the right, the bearded Ahasuerus sits on his throne and is accompanied by the seven princes of Persia and Media. He holds a scepter in his left hand and his other hand points to a man, probably Memucan, who stands before him. Six more men stand behind Memucan and a soldier holding a shield stands behind the king's throne. This scene shows the moment when the king asks his advisers what they think the fate of Vashti should be (Es. 1:13-20). On the left, two king's messengers ride on horseback towards a city in the background (Es. 1:21-23).

Cartouche 4 (lower margin): At the center of this cartouche, a group of women is brought to the king's court (Es. 2:1-4). They are lead by a man wearing a turban (most likely Hegai) who holds the first one's hand (Es. 2:8). A carriage drawn by two horses can be seen in the background on the left.

The second text panel is not fully visible in the image.

SBB Gaster I Type Esther Scroll | Unknown
Object Detail
opening decoration and text panels 1 and 2
second half of the 17th century
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Unknown (Unknown)
Italy | Veneto | Venice
| (?)
Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Gaster I scrolls|

The family of Italian Esther scrolls from the second half of the 17th century named by Mendel Metzger after Judaica collector, Moses Gaster (1856–1939), of whose collections an exemplar of this manuscript formed a part (see M. Metzger, “The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 48:2 (1966), 381‒432, esp. 390). It includes Esther scrolls produced in mixed technique in which decorative border is printed and colored by hand while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The opening and final section of the scrolls are precisely filled with a rich decoration formed of tendrils, flowers, and animals (the latter contains no animal figures). The upper and lower margins are adorned with repeating endless knot motifs alternating with cartouches enclosing more than thirty scenes in total that chronicles the Book of Esther. The text panels, in which nineteen text columns are included (in most panels they are grouped in pairs), are interspersed by floral decoration. The same scheme repeats on all three sheets forming each exemplar. Many of decorative elements are common with Klagsbald scrolls.

Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Ink and paints on parchment
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
The scroll: ca. 175 x ca. 1705 mm.
The length of the sheets: 1) ca. 645 mm, 2) ca. 520 mm, 3) ca. 540 mm long (the third membrane could not be measured precisely because it could not be completely unrolled).
Dimensions of the selected details in the scrolls:
- inner dimensions of a typical text panel: ca. 100 x 78 mm;
- an average letter: 1-2 mm (height);
- letters in col. 16: 4 mm (height);
- the space between the subsequent lines of the text: 2 mm.
Panel Measurements
The manuscript is preserved in good condition, although the last membrane is torn and a black stain in this place is visible. The edges of the membranes are straight. It seems that the details painted originally blue are almost completely faded. Cartouche no. 19 is almost colorless. In some places, the ink is faded and only remains of the letters are still noticeable.
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
The Book of Esther in Hebrew

The scroll consists of 3 membranes with 19 columns (9 double text panels and one single panel) with 22 lines, except for col. 16 written in 11 lines divided into two parts. The membranes contain respectively 6, 8, and 5 text columns.

The text is written on the flesh side of parchment membranes in a small, square Italian script, in black ink. The handwriting of the second sheet is slightly different than the script on the first and the third sheets. The same is true as to the shade of the ink.

The letters ח and ת (respectively Es. 1:6 and Es. 9:29) are enlarged and bolded. Enlarged and diminished letters are also included in col. 16.

The ruling was made by a stylus and consists of 22 horizontal lines ruled across the width of the sheet but currently, they are only slightly visible; better visible are vertical lines (1+2+1 in the text panel).

The pricking can be discerned in some places. 

The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.

Number of Lines
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year
Scribal Notes
Trade Mark
Decoration Program
Summary and Remarks

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 that is described here). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".

In the article by Mendel Metzger (Eine illustrierte...), the manuscript is called a "Marburger" megillah due to its previous storage location.

The pattern features a number of decorative elements common with the scrolls of Klagsbald type.

The opening decoration lacks its far-right part that is not printed. Also in some other places on the first and third sheets, the border is not entirely printed.

The color scheme of this manuscript is more limited than in many other scrolls decorated with the same pattern.

Suggested Reconsdivuction

Until 1970, this was in the collection of the Westdeutsche Bibliothek in Marburg (former Preussische Staatsbibliothek). Before the opening decoration, there is a blank fragment of parchment (ca. 120 mm wide) that contains two numbers written in black ink: "acc[?]. ms. or. 1929.130" and "Ms. or. oct. 2947", and a red stamp. Exhibited at the "Synagoga" exhibition in 1960/1961 in Recklinghausen and again in 1961 in Frankfurt am Main (respectively objects B 64 and 124 in the catalogues - see "Bibliography").

Main Surveys & Excavations

The scroll is mentioned in:

Ernst Róth, Hans Striedel. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1965-1984. Hebräische Handschriften, 135.

Mendel Metzger, Eine illustrierte Estherrolle der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts im Historischen Museum Frankfurt am Main, mit einem Anhang über Megilla-Hülsen, „Schriften des Historischen Museums Frankfurt am Main” 1972, no. 13, 95–116.

Synagoga. Kultgeräte und Kunstwerke von der Zeit der Patriarchen bis zur Gegenwart, Städtische Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, 3. November 1960 – 15. Januar 1961, ed. Anneliese Schröder, Recklinghausen 1961, object B 64.

Synagoga. Jüdische Altertümer Handschriften und Kultgeräte. Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, 17. Mai – 16. Juli 1961, Frankfurt am Main 1961, object 124.

Kitwe-jad - Jüdische Handschriften : restaurieren - bewahren - präsentieren; [Ausstellung der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, 4. Juli 2002 - 17. August 2002] / [Gesamtgestaltung: Stephan Rosenthal] Teil 1: Jüdische Kultur im Spiegel der Berliner Sammlung / [Ausstellung und Katalog: Petra Werner]. Berlin, 2002. 198 S. : zahlr. Ill. [Kat. Nr. 12]

A short description in German and English and digital images available on http://resolver.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/SBB0001BF8000000001 (accessed on 23.05.2020).

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.

Short Name
Full Name
Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Language Editor
Negative/Photo. No.