Obj. ID: 35198
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts GFC Esther Scroll with Portrait Medallions, Amsterdam, early 18th century
The scroll represents the type called "scrolls with portrait medallions" that are lavishly decorated and illustrated megillot produced in a mixed technique in which decorative border is printed as a copper engraving and the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. It features decorative medallions placed in upper margins, above the text panels, containing busts of the Esther story protagonists except for the last one where a Hebrew inscription is placed. The roundels are surrounded by acanthus leaves. The decorative scheme opens with a panel containing several illustrations from the Esther story; the central panel is designed for the benedictions that in this exemplar are inscribed in a decorative inner frame. In a rectangular panel, directly above, the Hebrew words ברכת מגילה - "blessings for the Megillah" are printed. The text is written in regular rectangular columns enclosed in frames and separated by pillars formed of a variety of motifs such as trees, flowers, acanthus leaves, heads of angels, and architectural elements. The letters of the initial word are large and decorated with a filigree ornament; additionally, every letter is placed in a separate frame; similar letters in the last column can be found. Lower margins are filled with figurative scenes that chronicle the Book of Esther's narrative or allude to midrashim and other sources. They are separated by the octagons (placed beneath the decorative pillars) filled mainly with land- and seascapes, most likely with no direct relation to the Purim story. The scroll ends with five full representations of the Esther story protagonists holding oval shields that in this exemplar are filled with Hebrew inscriptions. The panel above them is narrower than other panels; it contains a blessing after the Megillah reading that is followed by a liturgical poem for Purim. Two narrow pieces of parchment are added to the beginning and end of the manuscript.
For other scrolls sharing the same or similar pattern see IDs: 1545, 1547, 23764, 36305, 37876.
For related scrolls see IDs: 1545, 36305, 37875.
The manuscript is unique due to col. 14 in which the text is written by hand, while the gallows is printed and it lacks the filigree ornament that should surround the text (in other scrolls sharing the same border, both the text and decorations are printed; the gallows is placed in the center and the ornament behind the text appears). Additionally, this is the only manuscript in which large, decorative letters are incorporated.
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | with printed border
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | with benedictions
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | with piyutim
P | Portrait | Portrait medallion
A | Acanthus Leaf
M | C | Columns
V | Vase
L | Landscape
O | Ornamentation: | Architectonic motif
P | Putto (Putti in Plural)
L | Lion
G | Garland
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Foliate motif
O | Ornamentation: | Initial Letter | Initial letter, framed
O | Ornamentation: | Initial word, decorative
O | Ornamentation: | Initial Letter | Initial letter, decorative
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with the benedictions recited before and after the Megillah reading and the liturgical poem אשר הניא
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing a total of 16 columns of text and two additional benediction panels at the beginning and the end of the manuscript. Columns include 27, 28, or 30 lines of text, except for col. 1 with 20 lines and the initial word that is written in a separate line, and col. 14 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
Every sheet comprises 4 columns of the text.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script with tagin, in brown ink, on the flesh side of parchment membranes.
The scroll opens with a decorative initial word in which every letter is separated and surrounded with a filigree ornament.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is highlighted by its size (it is enlarged and bolded) and form (it is composed of two elements joined with a roof and has scrolled feet). The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged and bolded. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14; additionally, every letter in this section is outlined with a thin, light brown line.
The ruling and pricking are invisible.
The sheets in the scroll are stitched together.
The benedictions: The initial benedictions are inscribed in the central panel of the opening decoration. The words ברוך are separated from the rest of the formulas written in the square script. The background is filled with a filigree ornament drawn in brown ink.
The final blessing starts with a decorative word ברוך in which every letter is separated and surrounded with a filigree ornament. In the column below it, the Purim poem is copied in a semi-cursive script; only the letters opening the subsequent verses are inscribed in the square script (they are bolded too), and two large letters - א and ש - against a decorative background drawn in brown ink are incorporated.
The scroll is mentioned in:
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 megillot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warsaw 2019, 1:176-188.
Manuscripts sharing the same pattern are described in:
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.
Jiřina Šedinová, From the Mss. Collections of the State Jewish Museum in Prague. The Scrolls of Esther, "Judaica Bohemiae" 1979, nr 15/2, 80-83.