The Book of Esther forms part of Ketuvim (Writings) which is the third section of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible. A short book consisting of 10 chapters and 167 verses, it is one of only two biblical books in which God does not get a mention. The divine presence and intervention are nevertheless felt throughout the narrative, whose central figure, a Jewish maiden called Esther saves the Jews of Persia from an annihilation plot, and is crowned Queen of Persia.
The book’s Hebrew name – Megilat Ester (Scroll of Esther) – clearly indicates that it has been traditionally copied on and read from a scroll. Megilat Ester is read yearly at Purim (Festival of Lots), a Jewish spring festival with a carnival-like atmosphere that celebrates the deliverance of the Persian Jews from the death sentence. Purim is Hebrew for ‘lots’, a reference to the lots cast to determine the day when the Jews of Persia would be killed.
Enclosed in a decorative ivory case and with an ivory puller, this 17th-century CE undecorated Book of Esther was copied in a square, yet irregular Sephardi script. The scroll’s exact origin is unknown.
Browse through the entire manuscript on the Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- Kristin Phelps, Dr Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert
- New technologies and digital research
Kristin Phelps and Dr Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert look at 3D imaging at the British Library.
- Article by:
- Ann Tomalak
- Jewish Liturgy, The Hebrew Bible
As part of the Hebrew Manuscript Digitisation Project, the British Library imaged 74 scrolls. Former project conservator Ann Tomalak describes some of the challenges of conserving these unique items.