Book of Esther

Book of Esther Facsimile Edition

Italy — 17th century

Presented as a scroll in the splendor of Renaissance illumination: how Queen Esther saved the Jews from certain annihilation at the hands of the schemer Haman

  1. After becoming the wife of King Ahasuerus, Esther foils a plot to kill all the Jews in Persia without divine intervention

  2. It is one of only two books in the Hebrew Bible that does not explicitly mention God

  3. This uplifting story is illustrated with musicians, cherubs, and classical architectures in bas-de-page miniatures

Book of Esther

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Book of Esther

In the Book of Esther, a beautiful Jewish maiden living in Persia catches the eye of King Ahasuerus, who has set aside his wife. After becoming his queen, she foils a genocidal plot against the Jews by the scheming advisor Haman. Unlike other apocalyptic texts like the Book of Daniel, in which the Jews are saved by divine intervention, the crisis depicted in the Book of Esther is resolved solely through human action. The story is now one of the five scrolls of the Hebrew Bible and is the foundation of the festival of Purim. This ancient festival is presented here in the splendor of Renaissance décor combined with the ancient medium or a scroll. Human figures play instruments, cherubs hold up crowns, great vases hold flowers, and classical architectures surround the splendid Hebrew text. Bas-de-page miniatures in floral frames illustrate the events of the text.

Book of Esther

The Book of Esther is one of the five scrolls in the Hebrew Bible and its story forms the backbone of the festival of Purim, which commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from a genocide by the Persians. After being selected by King Ahasuerus, who is believed by most modern scholars to have been King Xerxes I (519-465 BC), the Hebrew woman Esther becomes Queen of the Persians and uses her influence to thwart the vizier Haman’s desire to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Instead, Haman, his sons, and their followers are the ones who are massacred. The text of the Book of Esther is interesting in that it is one of only two books in the Hebrew Bible that does not explicitly mention God. Unlike other apocalyptic texts like the Book of Daniel, in which the Jews are saved by divine intervention, the crisis depicted in the Book of Esther is resolved solely through human action. The story is considered to be of such importance that it is read twice during Purim. Here the story is presented in a lovingly illuminated Renaissance scroll rendered in delicate pastel colors. Human figures play instruments, cherubs hold up crowns, great vases hold flowers, and classical architectures surround the splendid Hebrew text. Bas-de-page miniatures in floral frames illustrate the events of the text. It is a refined work of illumination worthy of this historic Jewish festival.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Buch Esther
Eszter Könyve
Size / Format
1 scroll / 393.5 × 39.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
17th century
Style
Language
Illustrations
8 large-sized allegoric figures, 16 vignettes and numerous decorative floral and achitectural decorations
Previous Owners
Budapest rabbi Davi Kaufmann (1852–1899)

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Esther  – MS A 14 – Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Budapest, Hungary) Facsimile Edition
Helikon – Budapest, 1989
Limited Edition: 5,500 copies
Detail Picture

Book of Esther

Musician

Dressed in red and blue with some sheet music resting on her thigh, this young female musician is playing a cello or perhaps its predecessor, the bass violin. A musical revolution was underway in during the 17th century, when this luxuriously furnished scroll was created, and it was during this time that instruments as we know them today first emerged. By 1700, the bass violin had been largely replaced by the cello, except for in France where it remained popular for another two decades.

Eszter Könyve
Single Page

Book of Esther

The King Dethrones Queen Vashti

The narrative begins with King Ahasuerus declaring a feast lasting 180 days for the officials and servants from all of his provinces, which is followed by another feast lasting 7 days for all the inhabitants of his capital, Shushan. After Queen Vashti refuses his summons to appear before the court in her crown to display her beauty, the King sets her aside on the advice of his counsellors.

These first two scenes are depicted in the bas-de-page miniatures embedded in the architectural frames presenting the text. The artistic program of the scroll presents scenes at the bottom of each page while the upper register alternates between cherubs flanking inscriptions and allegorical female figures holding various plants, musical instruments, etc.

Eszter Könyve
Facsimile Editions

#1 Eszter Könyve

Helikon – Budapest, 1989

Publisher: Helikon – Budapest, 1989
Limited Edition: 5,500 copies
Binding: Wooden rod and handle
Commentary: 1 volume by Marianna H. Takács
Language: Hungarian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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