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Obj. ID: 21702
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Biblioteca Casanatense Gaster I Type Esther Scroll, Venice (?), Second half of the 17th century

© ''Ursula and Kurt Schubert Archive'' in the Center for Jewish Art, Photographer: Unknown, -

This scroll represents the type called Gaster I (for explanation, see "Additional Remarks"), lavishly decorated megillot produced in a mixture of print and manuscript techniques: the decorative border is printed as a copper engraving and colored by hand, while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The opening section is filled with a rich, precisely rendered, decoration of tendrils, flowers, and animals that surround a cartouche. The upper and lower margins are adorned with repeating endless knot motifs alternating with 20 cartouches enclosing one up to three scenes that chronicle the narrative of the Book of Esther. In this scroll, the background behind the endless knot motifs and cartouches in both margins is painted blue; on the subsequent sheets, different hues of blue color are used (in some places it is very faded). The ten text panels, in which nineteen text columns are included, are interspersed by stylized floral decoration. The same scheme repeats on all three membranes forming each scroll from this group. The pattern ends with a symmetrical decoration composed of large flowers and foliate ornaments surrounding a cartouche. Many decorative elements are common with the scrolls of Klagsbald Type (see ID 31). The cartouche in the opening decoration of the scroll from the Casanatense Library collection is filled with a seal that appears again on the opening section of the manuscript, outside decoration's outline. The right edge of the first membrane is trimmed into a funnel shape.

The scroll is mounted on the rod with ivory finials; its upper part is curved.

Summary and Remarks

The name "Gaster I" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in an article entitled "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" published in the "Bulletin of the John Rylands Library" (48:2 (1966), 381‒432, esp. 390). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and manuscript collector of whose collections a scroll adorned with this pattern formed a part (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 710 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections. For descriptions of other scrolls representing the same pattern see ID nos: 61, 1098, 1441, 21702, and 34125.

Two paper stickers containing the Library's inscription: "Mss Regia Biblioteca Casanatense Roma" and the number "Mss. 4851" are pasted on the opening section of the scroll, on its recto and verso side. Above the sticker, on the recto side, handwritten date or number 1743 is visible.

On the upper part of the verso side of the first sheet, there is an inscription: "FFFIV* CAPSULA No 5".

In the ornamentation some traces of gold are visible.

The background of the upper and lower margins is painted in a few different hues of blue color; the paint on the lower margin of the third membrane is barely visible, whereas the shade on the first membrane is saturated.

The membranes represent different types of parchment.

This image belongs to the ''Ursula and Kurt Schubert Archive'' in the Center for Jewish Art.

10 image(s)

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Biblioteca Casanatense Gaster I Type Esther Scroll | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
second half of the 17th century
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Italy | Veneto | Venice
| (?)
Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
Material / Technique
Ink and paints on parchment
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
An average letter is around 2 mm (on the second sheet, the letters are a bit lower than 2 mm), whereas in col. 16 the letters are 5 mm high.
165 mm
Panel Measurements
In general, the scroll is preserved in good condition except for the text on the first membrane copied in black ink that at present is heavily faded; some letters are barely legible. In some places, the printed border is hardly visible (e.g. the lower part of the second floral decoration on the first membrane). The parchment is still bright and well preserved (there are no holes and the edges are straight).
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
The Book of Esther in Hebrew

The scroll is formed of 3 membranes on which the Book of Esther is inscribed in 19 text columns (in 10 panels; 9 of them are double and the last one is single) with 22 lines each, except for the col. 16 with 11 lines divided into two parts.

The style of the script on sheets nos 2 and 3 is different than on the first sheet; the shade of ink is darker, the letters are smaller and the handwriting is denser even if the particular strokes are thinner. However, it still represents an Italian type of Hebrew square script. Possibly two different instruments were used for copying the text in the scroll.

The traditional enlarged and smaller letters are included only in the section of the IX chapter listing the names of Haman's sons (col. 16).

The ruling is visible, although not everywhere equally. In some places also the pricking can be seen. 

The text is copied and the border is printed on the flesh side of the parchment sheets that 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
Suggested Reconsdivuction
Main Surveys & Excavations

The scroll is described in:

Valeria Antonioli Martelli, Luisa Mortara Ottolenghi, Manoscritti biblici ebraici decorati provenienti da biblioteche italiane pubbliche e private: catalogo della mostra ordinata presso la Biblioteca Trivulziana: catalogo della mostra ordinata presso la Biblioteca Trivulziana, Castello Sforzesco, Milano, 2/28 marzo 1966 (Milano: Adei-Wiso) 1966, 62-63, object 17 + plate no. 12. (It lists an additional bibliography discussing the manuscript.

Ernest Namenyi, "The Illumination of Hebrew Manuscripts after the Invention of Printing," in Cecil Roth (ed.), Jewish Art, an Illustrated History (London, 1961), col. 433.

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.

Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Author of description
Dagmara Budzioch | 2020
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Language Editor
Negative/Photo. No.
The following information on this monument will be completed:
Unknown |