In the upper margin, landscapes nos. 1-4 are printed and in the lower margin frames nos. 13-16. An additional illustration is incorporated into the text column.
Frame 13: On the left, a table with three seated scribes is shown; they are most likely writing the decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves (Es. 8:8-10). On the right, two messengers of the king are going to deliver the new decree (Es. 8:14).
Frame 14: Two groups of people are shown, with some of the people in each group looking upwards. This detail suggests that the scene should be interpreted together with the illustration of the hanging of Haman’s ten sons (Es. 9:14) which is incorporated in the text column above. On every beam of these gallows, a single body (one of the sons of Haman) is hanged. A high ladder leans against the gallows and on top of it stands an executioner. It seems the people shown below are onlookers who are witnessing the execution.
Frame 15: On the right, two groups of mounted soldiers are shown fighting each other. The clothing of the men on the left suggests that they are the Jews. This is one of the moments in the narrative when Jews battle their enemies but it is difficult to determine which particular episode is illustrated here (Es. 9:5-12). On the left, the royal couple, Esther and Ahasuerus, sit together. However, it is slightly unclear which episode this illustration depicts; it is most likely the moment when Esther pleads with the king for an additional day of fighting (Es. 9:13).
Frame 16: On the right and in the center, a feast commences with musicians and dancing people (of both sexes). One of the dancers is shown wearing typical contemporary clothing for Jews of the time when this scroll was designed, another is wearing a checkered costume, and yet another is wearing a long curly wig. It is unclear whether this illustration depicts the victory feast after the Jews' triumph over their enemies (Es. 8:16-17) or the first Purim feast (Es. 9:17-23). On the left side of the frame, there is an illustration of a ship at sea (this alludes to Es. 10:1).
To the left edge, a wooden rod is stitched.
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).
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai writing the king's decree (Es. 8:10)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus' messenger(s) (Es. 8:14)
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) | *Other topics related to the Megillah: | Group of onlookers
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Jews battle their enemies (Es. 9:5-12)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Esther asks the king for an additional day of fighting (Es. 9:13)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | *Esther's Story Characters (depicted not in narrative scenes): | Ahasuerus and Esther, enthroned
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | First Purim feast (Es. 9:17-23)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ship(s) going out to sea (based on Es. 10:1)
S | Ship
L | Landscape
C | Columns
H | Herm(a)
P | Putto (Putti in Plural)
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
B | Basket | Basket with flowers
A | Acanthus Leaf
G | Garland
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.