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.
| Ms. or. oct. 2947
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.
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
L | Lion | Lion rampant
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments
O | Ornamentation: | Endless knot
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Floral motif
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus' banquet (Es. 1:3-8)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Vashti's banquet (Es. 1:9)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus and the seven princes of Persia and Media (Es. 1:13-15)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Memucan advises the king regarding the fate of Vashti (Es. 1:19)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus' messenger(s) (Es. 1:22)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Hegai taking Esther and the maiden(s) to the palace (Es. 2:8)
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.
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.
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").
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.