The Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is surrounded by decorated borders in sepia that to some extent imitating copper engravings. The decorations include 24 framed text illustrations, figures of the Esther story protagonists, and scenes not directly related to the Purim story; some of them are captioned in Hebrew. Most of the narrative scenes are placed in the spaces between the text panels and some others are included in the ornamentation of the upper and lower margins. Additionally, the scene of hanging of Haman's ten sons (Es. 9:14) is set within the ninth column of text. The margins are adorned with foliate scrolls that are inhabited by hunting scenes together with figures of various animals and birds such as stags, lions, dogs, rabbits, unicorns, an elephant, a sheep or a lamb, a camel, a donkey, a fox, parrots, storks, peacocks, a duck, and an eagle.
Length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) 685 mm, 2) ca. 680 mm, 3) ca. 225 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- text panels: 131-135 x ca. 82-123 mm;
- text panel 9: 134 x 106 mm;
- decorations in the spaces between the text panels: ca. 26-35 mm (width);
- opening decoration 178x55 mm;
- the blank section on the right edge of the first membrane: 37 mm (width);
- decorations in the upper and lower margins: ca. 23 mm;
- an average letter: ca. 2 mm (height);
- the letter ח in Es. 1:6: 4 mm (height);
- letters in col. 9: 8 mm (height).
The manuscript (the text, the decorations, and the parchments) is well preserved, although the membranes are crumpled in some places.
The opening section of the scroll is dirty.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The scroll is formed of 3 membranes containing a total of 11 text columns with 27 lines per each, except for the col. 9 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The membranes contain respectively 4, 5, and 2 columns of text.
The text is written in Hebrew square Ashkenazi stam script in light brown ink but the illustrations are captioned in the semi-cursive script.
The text and decorations are placed on the flesh side of parchment membranes that are very thin, delicate, and soft. The side of the text and decorations is brighter and smoother than the blank side of the membranes but both sides are similar.
The letters in col. 9, the letters forming the names of God, as well as ח in Es. 1:6 and ת in Es. 9:29, are darker and larger than an average letter in the scroll.
Col. 8 contains numerous elongated letters.
The ruling is made by a hardpoint on the flesh side and is barely discernible. It is ruled across the width of each sheet and 1+1 vertical lines for each column of text.
The pricking is visible on the outer and inner margins of every membrane.
The membranes in the scroll are sewn by sinew threads.
In verse Es. 2:3 (שמר הנשים ונתון תמרקיהן) some letters are marked by tagin (here they are bolded). This may be the way how the date of creation of the scroll was marked - 5500 that is 1739 or 1740 according to the Gregorian calendar.
The decorations are executed in the same ink that was used for writing the text.
The workmanship of the third membrane is slightly different than on the two remaining membranes.
Some drawings are very precisely executed (e.g. costumes, the crown of the king).
It seems the opening edge of the scroll was trimmed.
The scroll was transferred in 1948 to the JHI from the Central Storage of the Ministry of Culture and Art in Narozyn (in the region of Klodzko in Wroclaw county).
On the blank side of the opening section, the former shelfmarks 6715 and 405 are written on a sticker and the JHI shelfmark, ŻIH C-254/5 and C-326 are written on the parchment.
Online collection of the ritual objects from the E. Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute is available on http://cbj.jhi.pl/collections/964689 (accessed on 12.06.2021).
Iwona Brzewska, Magdalena Sieramska, Katalog, rzemiosło artystyczne, [in:] Muzeum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego. Zbiory artystyczne, Warsaw 1995, 34, fig. 60.
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, 1:228-248, 2: 27-32.