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Obj. ID: 39462
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  MOIJA Gaster I Type Esther Scroll with Colorless Background, Venice (?), second half of the 17th century

© Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art (MOIJA), Photographer: Unknown, 2021

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 - that in this scroll is partly preserved - 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. In the scroll from the MOIJA collection, the background of the endless knot ornaments and the cartouches containing the narrative scenes is left colorless and both cartouches are blank.

The scroll is mounted on a wooden turned roller.

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.

24 image(s)

sub-set tree:

MOIJA Gaster I Type Esther Scroll with Colorless Background | 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: 158x1680 mm.

The roller: 400 mm.
Panel Measurements

The manuscript is preserved in fair condition. It lacks the right edge of the first membrane, therefore a part of the opening decoration is not preserved.

The membranes are damaged in many places; they are crumpled, torn, and their edges are not straight. Due to this, it was reinforced with some pieces of parchment that are glued underneath the membranes.

In general, the coloring in the scroll is damaged. 

Some illustrations are badly preserved; additionally, some of them (e.g. cartouche no. 5) were badly printed.

A large part of the text is also poorly preserved and in many places, only brown remains of the letters are visible (an exception is the final part of the manuscript). Due to its state of preservation, the color of ink is difficult to determine, but it seems that originally it was black.

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 lines each, except for col. 16 which includes 11 lines divided into two half-columns.

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

The text is written in Hebrew square Italian script in black ink on the flesh side of parchment sheets. The blank side of the membranes is more yellow than the side of the text and decorations; some hair traces can be seen on it.

The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are not highlighted in the text. Similarly, no enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16.

The ruling made with a stylus is slightly visible.

The pricking is invisible.

The sheets in the scroll are stitched together. 

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

Donated to the Museum by Erna Ascoli in memory of her husband.

Main Surveys & Excavations

A short description of the scroll is available on https://museums.gov.il/en/items/Pages/ItemCard.aspx?IdItem=ICMS-EIT-0493 (accessed on 28.06.2021).

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 | 2021
Author of description
Dagmara Budzioch | 2021
Architectural Drawings
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Language Editor
Negative/Photo. No.
The following information on this monument will be completed:
Unknown |