Object Alone

Obj. ID: 1098
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts
  Estense Gaster I Type Esther Scroll, Venice (?), second half of the 17th century

© Center for Jewish Art, Photographer: Unknown, -

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. The upper and lower margins are adorned 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. The manuscript is incomplete; it lacks a fragment of the third membrane that should contain the final decoration. The scroll is an exception among the manuscripts from this group because it is printed in orange-brown ink, its cartouches and endless knot ornaments are painted gold, and the color scheme includes the hues that cannot be found in any other scroll representing Gaster I type.

The scroll is mounted on a wooden 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.

The scroll is an exception among the manuscripts decorated with the same pattern because the background of the endless knot motifs is partly painted in different colors. Similarly, the background of the floral decorations interspersing the text panels is filled with multicolored tempera. Some of the colors discernible in the manuscript (e.g. violet) cannot be found in any other scroll representing the same pattern. This can suggest that it was finished in another place or the decoration was re-painted in a later period. 


21 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Estense Gaster I Type Esther Scroll | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
second half of the 17th century
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
Italy | Modena | Estense University Library
| Ms. alpha. L. 2.2(4) (Or. 53)
Documentation / Research project
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Shape / Form
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 dimension of the scroll cannot be determined on the basis of the images and they are not given in the catalog by Carlo Bernheimer (see "Bibliography").

The roller is 280 mm high.
Panel Measurements

The manuscript is incomplete; it lacks a fragment of the third membrane that should contain the final decoration.

To the left edge of the last membrane, a short piece of parchment is stitched; it joins the manuscript with the wooden rod.

The scroll is preserved in good condition even if the membranes are folded in a few places. Also, the text is preserved in very good condition.

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. 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.

The text is written on the flesh side in a small, square Italian script with tagin, in black in ink.

No details concerning the ruling and pricking cannot be determined solely on the basis of the images.

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

The cartouche in the opening decoration contains a short text written in the Latin alphabet: "Ex Dono Vitta Lauda Dei Formiggini 1781". It probably starts with the donation formula ("ex dono") that literally means "from a gift of", "gift of [the name of a donor]." It is followed by the name of the eighteenth-century owner of the scroll, a member of the Formiggini family. The archival documents preserve the name of Vita Laudadio Formiggini (1690–1766), which is similar to three subsequent words in the note; however, he died before 1781 - the year that ends the inscription. Unquestionably, the date from the end of the 18th century cannot be the date of the manuscripts' creation; it could commemorate another event, such as the donation of the scroll.

Trade Mark
Decoration Program
Suggested Reconsdivuction
Main Surveys & Excavations

Bibliography concerning the scroll from the Estense Library:

Carlo Bernheimer, Catalogo dei manoscritti orientali della Biblioteca Estense, Roma 1960, 20, object 13.

Annie Sacerdoti, Arte e cultura ebraiche in Emilia-Romagna: [Exposición Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Paradiso 20 settembre 1988 - 15 gennaio 1989], Arnoldo Mondadori Editore - De Luca Edizioni del Arte 1988. On p. 161 the scroll is listed as object no. 106 (there is a short description of it), while the photo of the opening part of the manuscript is under no. 104. 

The panoramic image of the complete manuscript available: Megillah (Rotolo di Ester), in ebraico. Manoscritto membranaceo, sec. XVII, Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria: http://www.clponline.it/mostre/angelo-fortunato-formiggini-ridere-leggere-e-scrivere-nell%E2%80%99italia-del-primo-novecento (accessed on 16.04.2020)

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 | 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 |