This lavishly decorated scroll features a printed border designed by Francesco Griselini which surrounds the handwritten Hebrew text of the Book of Esther. The main part of the pattern consists of a series of arcades, under which the text is inscribed. The text panels are interspersed by columns whose shafts are decorated with different patterns and bases contain floral designs.
The upper margins are filled with a balustrade on which are placed cartouches flanked by flowers and pairs of turkeys, roosters, parrots, or hoopoes with their heads turned away; on each membrane, all four pairs of birds are printed in the same sequence. Additionally, above the cartouches between turkeys and parrots, double-headed eagles are placed, whereas turkeys or peacocks are above cartouches between roosters and hoopoes. The sections with birds are interspersed by vases with flowers or small citrus trees.
The lower margins are decorated with narrative scenes from the Book of Esther, set within rectangular Italian architectural frames separated by the columns’ bases. The scrolls in this family consist either of four or five sheets with four text panels each; the scroll from the IM collection is an exception because it consists of 5 sheets with 18 text columns. In some Griselini scrolls, including the one from the IM collection, some of the narrative scenes are printed in the improper order; some of them are printed twice in a particular scroll. Some illustrations are numbered with Arabic numerals.
The dimensions of the decorative details are as follows:
- a balustrade - ca. 28-30 mm (height);
- a frame with illustrations - ca. 75x30 mm;
- a flower-filled vase - ca. 30x40 mm;
- a segment with a pair of birds - ca. 40x90 mm;
- a column - ca. 22x100 mm
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 5 (?) membranes with the text inscribed in 19 (?) text columns with 19 lines (?), except for col. 16 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew Italian square script with tagin, in black ink, on parchment sheets.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its form - it is composed of two parts joined with a roof. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is highlighted by its size.
The membranes are stitched together.
The Griselini scrolls are a family of Italian Esther scrolls from the 1740s, in which the decorative and illustrative border is printed and the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is handwritten by a scribe. The lower-left corner of each sheet features the printed signature of Francesco Griselini (1717‒1787), the Italian engraver who designed the scheme. The decoration features a row of arcades under which individual columns of the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther are written. The scrolls in this family consist either of four or five sheets with four text panels each.
The decorative scheme resembles the ornamentation of Gaster II scrolls. In the Index, megillot Esther confusingly similar to Griselini scrolls, but not printed by Griselini himself, are called "Pseudo-Griselini scrolls". The decoration of Griselini scrolls also resembles that of the Gaster II scrolls, but without decoration at the beginning and the end (see descriptions of "Pseudo-Griselini" and "Gaster II" scrolls and in the Index).
Bibliography concerning Griselini scrolls from various collections:
Mendel Metzger, The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth, "Bulletin of the John Rylands Library", 48/2 (1966), esp. 406–432.
A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, eds. Evelyn M. Cohen, Emile Schrijver, Sharon Mintz, Amsterdam 2009, pp. 242–245 (additionally pp. 126-127 for the Bible of 1739 illustrated with Griselini's engravings).
Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menachem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, pp. 264‒265 (additionally pp. 246-247 for the Bible of 1739 illustrated with Griselini's engravings).
Dagmara Budzioch, The Decorated Megillot Esther in the Moses Gaster Hebrew Manuscript Collection at the John Rylands Library: a comparative analysis with reference to Eighteenth-century Italian scrolls, "Journal of Semitic Studies. Supplementary Series", in print.
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, 1:128–136.
Biography of Griselini in Italian and bibliography available on http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/francesco-griselini_(Dizionario-Biografico)/ (accessed on 11.04.2020).