This scroll is decorated in the Gaster II style (for the explanation of the name see "Additional Remarks"). These lavishly decorated megillot were produced in a mixture of print and manuscript techniques: the decorative border is partly printed but also features copper engravings and hand-colored illuminations. In this style, the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The main part of the pattern consists of a series of arcades, under which the text of the Megillah is inscribed (in this exemplar from the former Gaster collection, several columns are erased). The text panels are separated by columns whose bases are decorated with flowers. These floral bases separate rectangular frames in which figurative scenes chronicle the narrative of the Book of Esther. The upper margins feature a balustrade on top of which colorful cartouches are drawn. This exemplar is exceptional because three cartouches are filled with drawings: two busts and possibly a coat of arms with a tree and hands in the gesture of priestly blessing. Generally, in the Gaster II style, these cartouches are flanked by two roundels, and pairs of roosters and turkeys. These decorations are separated by flower-filled vases atop each column. The opening and final decorations vary in different examples of Gaster II scrolls. The megillah from the former Gaster collection opens with foliate and floral ornaments in which the "Four animals" from Pirkei Avot - "Ethics of the Fathers" (5:20) surround a decorative cartouche filled with initial benedictions. Its final part contains a symmetrical decoration composed of foliate and floral ornaments.
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | with printed border
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | in ha-melekh layout
*Manuscripts and Printed Books | Esther scroll (megillat Esther) | with benedictions
Length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 610 mm, 2) 690 mm, 3) 465 mm, 4) 755 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- an average frame: 30x85 mm;
- the balustrade: ca. 20 mm;
- an average letter: 2 mm (height);
- spaces between the lines: 2 mm.
O | Ornamentation: | Architectural frame
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments
A | Animals and Beasts
C | Columns
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
B | Bird
A | Animals, the Four (Mishnah, Avot, 5:20)
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Flower
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
The manuscript is preserved in fair condition; it lacks its opening part and some damages are visible.
There are some damages in the final part of the scroll too and losses in the sheets' edges.
The text is damaged, a substantial part of it is erased, seriously faded, or restored with a second layer of ink.
The illustrations are well preserved.
Blue paint is faded.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with the initial and final benedictions for the Megillah reading.
The scroll is formed of 4 membranes containing in total 19 columns of text with 23 lines each, except for col. 16 which has 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The number of text columns per sheet: no. 1 - 4, no. 2 - 6, no. 3 - 4, no. 4 - 5.
The text is inscribed in Hebrew square Italian script in brown ink of different hues, on the flesh side of parchment membranes. Some parts of the text are copied in black ink, but this may be a second layer applied later.
The sheets are made of very thick and stiff parchment. Their blank side is rather dark and rough.
The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are highlighted by their size. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16.
The ruling - made with a hard point - is barely visible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
The benedictions: the initial benedictions are inscribed in the cartouche that is a central part of the opening decoration. The first six words of the blessings are abbreviated.
The final benediction and the poem for Purim are written at the end of the scroll; they are integrated into the outermost part of the decoration. The layout of the text is totally irregular.
The name "Gaster II" was introduced by Mendel Metzger in his article "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth" (see "Bibliography"). The type was named after Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the rabbi, scholar, and Judaica collector whose collections included a scroll adorned with this pattern (at present this is the scroll Gaster Hebrew MS 711 stored in the John Rylands Library in Manchester - the manuscript described here). At least 8 manuscripts representing this type are known; they are preserved in private and institutional collections. For their descriptions see "Related objects".
The decorative scheme of Gaster II scrolls shows common features with the Griselini and Griselini-Related scrolls (see "Griselini scrolls" and "Griselini-Related scrolls" in the Index), whereas the narrative scenes are the same as in the scrolls representing the Klagsbald type (see in the Index). The exception is frame no. 19 that in Gaster II scrolls joins the illustrations no. 19 and 20 from Klagsbald scrolls.
The general layout of the decoration is the same in all exemplars of Gaster II scrolls, however, particular manuscripts differ in detail; especially their opening decorations vary.
In the manuscript, some details are painted in white, an exception for the scrolls representing this group.
Originally, some details (e.g. flowers on the columns' bases) possibly were painted in gold but at present only green shade is visible.
Around some illustrations, blots of ink are visible.
The scroll belonged to Moses Gaster's (1856–1939) collection. In his hand-written catalogue, it is listed under no. 711. At the beginning of the scroll, in its upper margin, there is an inscription in black ink: "711 M. Gaster".
The manuscript is described in:
Mendel Metzger, "The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth", Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 48:2 (1966), 381‒432.
Its images (nos. JRL16041358-JRL16041368) are available on https://luna.manchester.ac.uk (accessed on 28.10.2020).
The scrolls representing the same or similar pattern are discussed in:
Hebrew and Judaic manuscripts in Amsterdam public collections Catalogue of the manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, University Library of Amsterdam eds. L. Fuks and R. G. Fuks-Mansfeld, Leiden 1973.
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, 1:124-134, 322.