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Obj. ID: 34641
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  MAHJ Griselini Esther Scroll, Venice, 1740s

© Dagmara Budzioch, Photographer: Budzioch, Dagmara, 05.03.2015

This lavishly decorated scroll features a printed border designed by Francesco Griselini which surrounds the handwritten Hebrew text of the Book of Esther. The text panels are interspersed by columns whose shafts are decorated with different patterns and bases contain floral designs.

The scroll from the MAHJ collection is unique in this group because the text is written in rectangular panels and not in arcades as in all other Griselini scrolls; all other details are the same as in other Griselini scrolls. The text panels are interspersed by columns whose shafts are decorated with different patterns and whose 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 decorated with this pattern consist either of four (as the megillah from the MAHJ collection) or five sheets with four text panels on each. In some Griselini scrolls (e.g. in the megillah from the MAHJ collection), some of the narrative scenes are printed in the improper order even if some illustrations are numbered with Arabic numerals. Some illustrations appear twice in a scroll.

The scroll is mounted on a wooden roller.

A separate, undecorated benediction sheet is rolled together with the scroll. 

Summary and Remarks

Originally, the text panels and the oval fields of cartouches may have been framed in gold.

The shape of the text panels differs from those of other manuscripts decorated with the Griselini border.

The scroll is illustrated with 16 of 20 frames originally designed by the engraver, and it lacks the frames nos. 5, 8, 12, and 20. Additionally, some of the illustrations on sheets 2, 3, and 4 are not printed in chronological order. This suggests that the frames were printed from the small separate metal plates and the printer could decide which of them will be used for printing. Some illustrations bear Arabic numerals.

The Griselini scrolls 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 "Griselini-Related 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 "Griselini-Related" and "Gaster II" scrolls and in the Index).


23 image(s)

sub-set tree:

MAHJ Griselini Esther Scroll | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Griselini, Francesco (artist, engraver)
{"1592":"(1717, Venice\u20131787, Milan) began theological studies in Venice, but abandoned them in favor of history and science. He was active in many fields, including geography, cartography, agriculture, natural history, and economics; but he was also a writer, comic poet, traveler, journalist, botanist, and member of a Masonic lodge. One of his most important works is \"Dizionario delle arte e de\u2019 Mestieri\", an encyclopedia on agriculture, mining, handicrafts, trades, and technology, which was issued in 17 volumes between 1768 and 1778. In 1764, he founded the agricultural periodical \"Il Giornale d\u2019Italia\". His engravings adorn several editions of books printed in Venice between 1739 and 1755 (for his engravings see the Index). He also designed decorations for the sukkah."}
Historical Origin
Community type
Unknown |
Unknown |
Griselini scrolls|
{"212":"The family of Italian Esther scrolls from the 1740s produced in the mixed technique in which decorative border is printed and the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The lower-left corner of each sheet features a printed signature of Francesco Griselini (1717\u20121787), the Italian engraver who designed the scheme. The decoration is based on the row of arcades under which individual columns of the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther are inscribed. On the arcades is placed a balustrade with oval medallions flanked by pairs of birds with their heads turned away; these sections are interspersed by flower-filled vases. Lower margins are filled with scenes illustrating the narrative of the Book of Esther, framed in rectangles that are separated by the columns’ bases. 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."}
Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Shape / Form
Material / Technique
Ink on parchment (handwritten text, printed border) + wood
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
The scroll: 255 x ca. 1915 mm.
The length of the membranes in the scroll: 1) 495 mm, 2) 460 mm, 3) 460 mm, 4) ca. 500 mm (the final part of the membrane is stitched to the roller).
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the text panel - ca. 95x120 mm;
- a balustrade - ca. 28-30 mm high;
- 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 between the text panels - ca. 22x100 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm (height);
- letters in col. 14: 7 mm (height);
- the letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29): 5 mm (height).
A separate benediction sheet - ca. 310 x ca. 240 mm.
The roller: ca. 450 mm (height).
Panel Measurements

The scroll (parchment, text, decorations) is preserved in very good condition; only small damage in the upper margin of the opening section is visible.

The upper part of the handle is damaged.

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 accompanied by a separate benediction sheet with piyutim.


Scroll: The manuscript is composed of 4 membranes containing 16 text columns with 22 lines each, except for the last column (no. 16) which includes 24 lines, and column no. 14 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.

The text is copied on the flesh side of the parchment, in black ink, in an Italian square script decorated with elegant tagin.

The handwriting in the last column is denser than in all other text columns; this is partly caused by the correction of the text placed over the erasure.  

Missing words are added above the lines of the text.

The parchment is rather thin but quite stiff and very smooth on both sides. The side with the text and decorations is almost white and brighter than the blank side that is more yellow.  

The ruling is invisible.

Benediction sheet: It is a separate sheet of thick parchment. It contains initial and final benedictions and the liturgical poem "Arur Haman" that is followed by the heading of another poem קוראי מגילה "Korei Megillah".

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
Every membrane, in the lower-left corner, bears the engraver's signature "Griselini f.". The letter "f" is an abbreviation for the Latin word "fecit" which means "made by". In col. 5 (the first on the second membrane) there is a signature in the Latin alphabet that is difficult to decipher; the first two letters can be "Gr".
Scribal Notes
Trade Mark
Decoration Program
Suggested Reconsdivuction

The scroll was donated by Inna Nahmias in memory of her husband, Élie Nahmias.

Main Surveys & Excavations

Bibliography concerning the manuscript:

A short description in French and English and several photos of the scrolls are available on https://www.mahj.org/en/decouvrir-collections-betsalel/rouleau-d-esther-54801 (accessed on 15.05.2020).

Bibliography concerning Griselini scrolls from various collections:

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).

Mendel Metzger, The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 1966, 48/2, esp. 406-432.

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).

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 |