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Obj. ID: 61
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  JHI Gaster I Type Esther Scroll, Venice (?), second half of the 17th century

© The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (JHI), Photographer: Kwolek, Grzegorz, 09.2017

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. In the scroll from the JHI collection, the right edge is trimmed into a multifoil shape. The upper and lower margins are filled 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 background behind the cartouches and endless knot patterns in this scroll is left colorless. 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 composition ends with a symmetrical decoration composed of large flowers and foliate ornaments surrounding a cartouche. The right edge is trimmed into a multifoil shape.

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.

Originally the cartouches and the endless knot motifs may have been painted gold; some traces of paint are still visible on the first membrane.

The opening edge of the scroll is cut in the shape of a multifoil arch, while its final edge is cropped straight and is perforated with four holes which were probably used for holding the (missing) rod. 

The word "Esther" is written in a Latin cursive script (in pencil) on the recto side of the opening edge of the scroll.


14 image(s)

sub-set tree:

JHI 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|
{"209":"The family of Italian Esther scrolls from the second half of the 17th 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”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 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. "}
Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Shape / Form
Material / Technique
Ink and paints on parchment (printed border, handwritten text)
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
The scroll: 173-175 mm
An average letter is ca. 2 mm high, whereas the letters in col. 16 are ca. 5 mm high.
Panel Measurements

In general, the scroll is preserved in very good condition, although the state of the decoration is better than that of the text.

Some parts of the text are faded but they are still legible.

The membranes are bright, very smooth, slightly shiny, and their edges are straight.

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 consists of 3 membranes with 19 columns written in 9 double text panels and a single panel. They contain 22 lines per column, except for col. 18 with 23 lines and col. 16 with 11 lines (the section lists the names of Haman's sons that are inscribed in a popular layout, in a larger script). The membranes contain respectively 6, 8, and 5 text columns.

Written on the flesh side in a small, square Italian script with tagim, in brown-black ink.

The ruling is visible in the places with no text and decoration and on the blank side of membranes.

Pricking is not discernible.

Membranes in the scroll are sewn together with sinew threads.

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 former shelfmarks are written on the blank (hair) side of the opening section of the scroll: 3944 (in ink), 48339 and RFAN (in pencil). The collection of eight megillot Esther stored in the Jewish Historical Institute contains the manuscripts taken from three places: 1) Kunzendorf (Trzebieszowice) village in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, 2) collection point of the Ministry of Culture and Art in Bożków (Lower Silesian Voivodeship), 3) city museum of Toruń. It cannot be determined in which of these places the scroll was previously stored.

Main Surveys & Excavations

Bibliography concerning the scroll from the JHI collection:

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.

Marian Fuks, Zygmunt Hoffman, Maurycy Horn, Żydzi polscy. Dzieje i kultura, Warszawa 1982, 102.

The online collection of the ritual objects from the E. Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute is available on http://cbj.jhi.pl/collections/964689

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, "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.

Yaffa Levy; Keren Katsir; Dagmara Budzioch | 1994; 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 |