Img. ID: 347082
The first sheet contains the opening decoration and three panels (nos. 1-3) with six columns of the text (nos. 1-6):
Opening decoration: The opening section of the scroll is composed of foliate and floral ornaments, 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") 5:20. At the center, there is a flower supported by two rampant lions with split tails. Below two dolphins' masks are visible. A leopard is depicted above the flower in the center and an eagle with outstretched wings in the upper-right corner is shown. Two other animals are represented in the lower part of the decoration, though here only a figure on the right can be seen.
Frame 1 (text panel 1 - upper margin): At the center, within the scenery of the palace gardens, the crowned and bearded King Ahasuerus sits on the throne under a high canopy at a round laid table. 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.
Frame 2 (text panel 1 - lower margin): The crowned Vashti, within the scenery of the palace gardens, sits under a high canopy at a round laid table. She is flanked by three women on either side (Es. 1:9). On the right, a group of servants, all wearing turbans, enter the garden through a gate on the right; the first of them addresses the queen. Most likely, they are coming with the king's order that Vashti should appear before him and his guests (Es. 1:10-11). The scene on the left might depict the moment when the queen, after her refusal, is taken from the palace by two men (alluding to Es. 1:19).
Frame 3 (text panel 2 - upper margin): On the right, the bearded Ahasuerus sits on the throne on a platform, accompanied by the seven men who are 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 other men stand behind Memucan (?), and a soldier holding a shield stands behind the king's throne. The scene shows the moment when the king asks his advisers for a piece of advice as to the further fate of Vashti (Es. 1:13-20). On the left, two king's messengers ride on horseback towards a city in the background (Es. 1:21-23).
Frame 4 (text panel 2 - lower margin): At the center, 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.
Frame 5 (text panel 3 - upper margin): In the center, the bearded Ahasuerus wearing a turban is seated on the throne with a canopy and is flanked by eight men in turbans who sit on benches (four on either side). Both hands of the king are outstretched and in one of them, he holds a crown which he is about to place on the head of the kneeling Esther. Behind her, four women stand (Es. 2:17).
Frame 6 (text panel 3 - lower margin): On the right, Mordecai stands within a gate in the wall and looks at two men who are probably Bigthan and Teresh (Es. 2:21). On the left, Haman is approaching Ahasuerus who is sitting on a raised throne with a canopy. The king holds a scepter in one hand and in another he has a ring that gives to Haman (Es. 3:10). A man, possibly a guard, stands behind the throne. There is a fountain in the center of the cartouche.
| Ms. III.D.17
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) | Ahasuerus sending letters (Es. 1:22)
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) | Hegai taking Esther and the maiden(s) to the palace (Es. 2:8)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Coronation of Esther (Es. 2:17)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Mordecai with Bigthan and Teresh (Es. 2:21)
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Ahasuerus handing his ring to Haman (Es. 3:10)
A | Animals, the Four (Mishnah, Avot, 5:20)
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
In general, the manuscript is preserved in fair condition, but the text is well preserved.
The opening decoration is seriously damaged; its parts are missing and the membrane is torn in several places.
Coloring in some parts of the decoration is faded (e.g. in the final section of the scroll).
The floral decoration of the benediction sheet is poorly preserved.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew, accompanied by a separate benedictions sheet with initial and final benedictions and portions of the piyut Shoshanat Yaakov.
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing 19 columns of text with 24 lines each, except for col. 16 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
Sheets nos. 1-3 contain 3 columns of the text, and sheet no. 4 contains a single column.
The text is written in Hebrew square Italian script in black ink on parchment membranes.
The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are enlarged. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
Benedictions – every formula starts with enlarged and bolded opening word ברוך. The name of God is replaced by 2 letters י and a ligature of א and ל letters. In their text, a ligature of א and ל letters is included too.
The text is copied in a different handwriting than the scroll itself.
The frames on the upper margins are numbered with Arabic numerals.
On the blank side of the benediction sheet, a seal of the Library, as well as two numbers (III.D.17 and 194232), can be seen.
Bibliography concerning this manuscript is unknown but other scrolls sharing the same pattern are described e.g. in:
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”, 13 (1972), 95–116.
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, 1:119-128.