The scroll is representative of the type aptly called "scrolls with landscapes II" (see "Additional Remarks"), which features a decorative scheme of four different landscapes framed in cartouches that fill the upper margins and repeat on every sheet in the same order:
1. On the left, two men and a dog stand by a gate overlooking a vast landscape of mountains and trees.
2. On the right, two wanderers are depicted approaching a hill with buildings. On the left, a man on horseback rides towards a bridge over a river. In the background, mountains and trees are visible.
3. A fountain in a garden with a palace in the background.
4. On the right, a man sitting under a tree. In the background, a landscape of mountains, trees, and buildings.
It is difficult to prove a direct connection between the landscapes and the narrative of the Book of Esther, although the possibility of such a connection cannot be excluded (e.g. two men in the second landscape could be the king's messengers and the man sitting under the tree in the fourth landscape could be Mordecai).
The scrolls with landscapes are lavishly decorated megillot produced in a mixed technique in which the decorative border is printed (as a copper engraving, though in some examples, colored by hand), while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The scrolls decorated with this pattern begin with a panel composed of several figurative scenes from the Book of Esther narrative; the exemplar from the Hamburg collection is an exception as this section is printed on a separate narrow piece of parchment stitched to the megillah itself. The text columns are separated by herms decorated with reliefs, elaborate acanthus leaves, and garlands above which are either decorative capitals or putti holding baskets with flowers on their heads. Below, pedestals with angel's heads and decorative bases were added, therefore, the text panels are higher. The lower margins are filled with the figurative scenes that chronicle the Purim story, sometimes alluding to midrashim or other sources; they are punctuated by vases with plants. The manuscript from the SUB collection is an exception because below the opening panel is added a cartouche painted by hand in which buildings and a tree can be recognized and some Arabic numerals are written on it. Additionally, the border is colored by hand.
Summary and Remarks
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).
| Cod. Levy 159
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with initial benedictions
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing 16 columns of the text with 27 lines, except for col. 14 with 19 lines (the first 11 lines in the column are divided into two parts).
Every sheet contains 4 columns of text.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script, in black and brown ink, on the flesh side of parchment membranes.
The initial word of the Megillah is enlarged and bolded.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is slightly larger than an average letter in the scroll; additionally, it is highlighted by its form - it contains two parts joined with a roof and is decorated with scrolled feet. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged and bolded. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.
In col. 13 several letters are extremely elongated and due to this, their shape is difficult to recognize. The last line in the column is inscribed on the printed border.
The ruling - made with a hardpoint - is slightly visible; it can be discerned in some places only.
There are some erasures and corrections in the text.
The sheets in the scroll are stitched.
The benedictions open with enlarged and bolded words ברוך written separately in the lines. The formulas are written in the square script. They include the ligature of א and ל letters.
The scroll is described in:
Falk Wiesemann, Codex hebraicus 159, [in:] Irina Wandrey ed., Manuscript Cultures, vol. 6, 257-259.
Photographs and a short description of the manuscript in English are available on https://resolver.sub.uni-hamburg.de/kitodo/PPN893258520 (accessed on 12.02.2020).
Other 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.
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, 1:163-176, 2:41-49.
http://braginskycollection.com/esther-scrolls/ (accessed on 22.04.2020)
The manuscript is preserved in very good condition.
In two places, the first and second membranes are sewn with red thread.
Color saturation is not the same on all membranes; some parts of the print are unpainted.