This scroll is adorned with an engraved border designed by Philipp Jakob Franck in which the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is hand-copied by a scribe.
It starts with a panel composed of a crown-topped cartouche, supported by two standing angels and three scenes from the Book of Esther placed one under the other: 1) A man holding a book, standing before the enthroned King Ahasuerus (possibly alluding to Es. 6:1) and the triumph of Mordechai, depicted in the background (Es. 6:11), 2) Mordecai giving Hatach the letter for Esther (Es. 4:7-8), 3) King Ahasuerus's sleepless night (Es. 6:1) and the palace gardens, including a fountain, in the background. Elongated cartouches for the Hebrew inscriptions are added to the scenes. The illustrations are labeled, but their wording is not the same in all surviving versions of this type of megillah. Additionally, there is an inscription in the lower-left corner of the 2nd illustration in the Latin alphabet (see "Signature").
The upper and lower margins of the entire scroll are decorated with the same pattern, a composition of dense acanthus leaves in which nude busts, landscapes framed in decorative cartouches, and birds (possibly phoenixes) are woven.
The text of the megillah is inscribed in rectangular panels separated by twisted columns. Just above each column are flower-filled vases and narrative scenes from the Purim story: 1) King Ahasuerus with his scepter (possibly alluding to Es. 1:1); 2) Seven maidservants of Esther (Es. 2:9); 3) Queen Esther with her scepter; 4) Bigthan and Teresh hanging on the gallows (Es. 2:23); 5) The king giving his ring to Haman (Es. 3:10); 6) Mordecai with an open book before Haman (it is unclear what part of the text this scene represents); 7) Mordecai on horseback (alluding to Es. 6:11); 8) The king giving his ring to Mordechai (Es. 8:2); 9) Esther in front of Haman's house (Es. 8:1 (?)); 10) Esther writing the Purim letter (Es. 9:29). These scenes are also labeled in Hebrew, though their sequence is not the same in all preserved examples of this type of scroll.
Four other narrative scenes from the Book of Esther are printed one under the other in the final section of the scroll. They are as follows: 1) Possibly the first Purim feast (Es. 9:17-23); 2) Esther’s second banquet (Es. 7:3); with the gallows built for Mordechai in the background (Es. 5:14); 3) Queen Esther before the king while he extends his scepter to her, and Mordechai kneeling in front of the king while becoming the new royal vizier and receiving Ahasuerus's ring (Es. 8:2-4); 4) Mordecai writing the Purim letter (Es. 9:29). In the scenes, elongated cartouches for inscriptions are incorporated.
The scroll is mounted on a roller partly made of wood and partly of metal; it is placed at the beginning of the scroll.
| C 1918.104.22.168
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) ca. 680 mm, 2) 575 mm, 3) 575 mm, 4) 695 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the text columns: 308x580 mm;
- decorations in the upper margins: 46 mm;
- decorations in the lower margins: 48 mm;
- initial panel with illustrations: ca. 70 mm (width);
- decoration with angels (upper part of the initial panel): 45x70 mm;
- 2 middle illustrations in the initial panel: 70x103 mm;
- the lowest illustration in the initial panel: 46x70 mm;
- spaces between text columns: ca. 29 mm;
- decoration above the twisted columns: ca. 40x30 mm;
- text panel: 208x120 mm;
- an average letter: 4 mm;
- letters in col. 14: 8 mm.
L | Landscape
E | Esther, Book of (following the order of the story) | Esther story protagonists
A | Acanthus Leaf
W | Woman | Nude
H | Human Figure | Bust (Human figure)
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
A | Angel
B | Bird
P | Phoenix
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments
I | Illustration
The scroll is preserved in good condition, although some blemishes can be noticed on it.
The roller is incomplete.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing 16 columns of text with 24 lines, except for col. 14 which has 17 lines (11 of them - containing Haman's sons section - are divided into two parts).
Every membrane contains 4 columns of text.
The text is inscribed in Hebrew square Ashkenazi script, in black ink, on the flesh side of parchment membranes that are rather thin, grey, and suede (on both sides).
There are some corrections in the text.
The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are enlarged. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.
The ruling - made with a stylus - is barely visible.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
Around 15 megillot featuring the same border are housed in private and institutional collections. Yet another exemplar used to be a part of the Gross Family Collection (no. 081.012.044) but in 2003 was stolen from the Beit Hatfutsot Museum in Tel Aviv (Hilfe erbeten: Judaica Diebstahl: http://www.judentum.net; accessed on 14.12.2018). There are also two scrolls embellished with the same border but with texts other than the Book of Esther.
Some vignettes in the scroll are diagonally placed to the twisted columns.
On the blank side of the first sheet, there are some Hebrew letters showing a different style than the professional hand-writing in the scroll (probatio pennae?).
A triangular piece of fabric with a string has been sewn to the end of the scroll. This was planned to be used to wrap the scroll but, it was placed in the wrong place. Also, the roller stitched to the right edge of the first sheet suggests that someone (one of the manuscript's owners?) did not perceive that this manuscript is to be read from right to left.
Some "patches" are glued on the blank side of the sheets.
The scrolls featuring the same border are described in:
Dagmara Budzioch, Verzierte Ester-Rollen – illustriert von dem Prager Kupferstecher Philipp Jakob Franck [in:] Zwischen Offenbarung und Kontemplation: Die Wolfenbütteler hebräischen Schriftrollen, mit Beiträgen von Dagmara Budzioch und Ad Stijnman (Wolfenbütteler Forschungen), Wiesbaden 2021, pp. 106-117.
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, 266–267.
http://braginskycollection.com/scrolls/prague/ (accessed on 21.09.2020).
A Magnificent Illustrated Esther Scroll [Prague ca. 1700], lot 169: http://www.sothebys.com; accessed on 14.12.2018.
A Magnificent Illustrated Esther Scroll [Prague: ca. 1700], lot 24: http://www.sothebys.com; accessed on 14.12.2018.