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Obj. ID: 36105
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Biblioteca Mai Gaster I Type Esther Scroll, Venice (?), second half of the 17th century

© Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai e Archivi storici comunali, 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 decorated with repeating endless knot motifs alternating with 20 cartouches enclosing one up to three scenes that chronicle the narrative of the Book of Esther. 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. The scroll from the Bergamo collection is an exceptional exemplar due to the border printed in three colors: black (membrane no. 1), brown (membrane no. 2), and orange (membrane no. 3), whereas the majority of Gaster I type scrolls is adorned with a border printed in black ink. In this scroll, the background of the endless knot ornaments and the cartouches containing the narrative scenes is left colorless and both cartouches are blank. The right edge is trimmed into a multifoil shape.

The scroll is accompanied by a wooden roller that is not stitched to the megillah.

Summary and Remarks

The name "Gaster I" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in his article entitled "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" (see "Bibliography"). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and manuscript collector, who owned a scroll adorned with this pattern (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 710 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester - ID 36150). At least 25 manuscripts representing this type are still extant and are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".

The pattern features a number of decorative elements common with the scrolls of Klagsbald type.

On the blank side of the opening section of the scroll, there is an inscription in the Latin alphabet: "Liber Ester Hebraice".

Eye-catching yellow details that are especially well visible on the 2nd sheet are the characteristic feature of this scroll.

Originally the endless knot patterns and cartouches' frames were painted gold but only some remains of the color are still visible; at present these details are rather green.

The right edge of the first sheet is trimmed into a multifoil.

The first sheet differs from the remaining two membranes; the border on it is printed in black ink and the text is written in 23 lines.

6 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Biblioteca Mai 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 |
Gaster I scrolls|

The family of Italian Esther scrolls from the second half of the 17<\/span>th<\/span> century named by Mendel Metzger after Judaica collector, Moses Gaster (1856–1939), of whose collections an exemplar of this manuscript formed a part (see M. Metzger, “The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth”, <\/span>Bulletin of the John Rylands Library <\/span><\/em>48:2 (1966), 381\u2012432, esp. 390). It includes Esther scrolls produced in mixed technique in which decorative border is printed and colored by hand while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The opening and final section of the scrolls are precisely filled with a rich decoration formed of tendrils, flowers, and animals (the latter contains no animal figures). The upper and lower margins are adorned with repeating endless knot motifs alternating with cartouches enclosing more than thirty scenes in total that chronicles the Book of Esther. The text panels, in which nineteen text columns are included (in most panels they are grouped in pairs), are interspersed by floral decoration. The same scheme repeats on all three sheets forming each exemplar. Many of decorative elements are common with Klagsbald scrolls. <\/span><\/p>"}

Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
Material / Technique
Ink and paints on parchment (printed border, handwritten text) + wood
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
The scroll: 173-178x1620 mm.
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) 525 mm, 2) 515 mm, 3) 535 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- upper and lower margins: 42 mm;
- endless knot pattern: 32x42 mm;
- cartouche with a narrative scene(s): 28x910 mm (inside);
- text panel: 81x102 mm;
- text column: 73x47 mm;
- space between text columns: 4 mm;
- margins around the text column: 5-6 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm;
- letters in the Haman's sons section: 4 mm.

The roller: 280 mm.
Panel Measurements

The state of preservation of the subsequent sheets differs.

In general, the decoration of the second membrane is preserved in worse condition than on the first one.

The text in the scroll is well preserved.

The second and third sheets are stitched very loosely.

The blue paint is very poorly preserved.

The sheets are stained in several places.

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 sheets containing 19 columns of the text with 22 or 23 lines, except for col. 16 with 11 lines divided into two parts.

The number of text columns per sheet: sheet no. 1 - 6, no. 2 - 8, no. 3 - 5.

The text is inscribed in a Hebrew square Italian script, in intense black and slightly shiny ink, on the flesh side of parchment sheets which are bright and matte - though their other side is more yellow and smooth.

On the 3rd membrane, a double layer of ink is visible on the letters.

The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is slightly larger than an average letter in the scroll. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is also enlarged; it is 3 mm high. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16. 

The word ויעש written in brown ink and in a different hand-writing is added in col. 10 (on the floral ornament). Several lines below, one more word - המלך - was added.

The left margins of several columns are not straight. 

The ruling made with a stylus is slightly visible.

The pricking can be discerned on the blank side of the scroll.

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

The manuscript has been stored in the library at least since the 1840s. It is listed by Bartolomeo Secco Suardo in "Catalogo generale della pubblica Biblioteca comunale della regia Città di Bergamo" that was written in 1840.

Main Surveys & Excavations

Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Mai Library:

Panoramic image of recto and verso sides of the manuscript available on the website of Biblioteca Digitale Lombarda: https://www.bdl.servizirl.it/bdl/bookreader/index.html?path=fe&cdOggetto=6002#mode/1up (accessed on 29.09.2020).

Detailed description in Italian and images available on https://www.effettobibbia.it/il-rotolo-di-ester (accessed on 29.09.2020).

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 |