Imagining Esther: The Splendid Illustrated Esther Scrolls in the HUC Collection

Thursday, March 4, 2021

This spring the HUC-JIR Library has joined with the HUC Connect program to bring a wide variety of lectures to a broad audience. Each of these lectures focuses on different interesting or rare items in the collections at the Klau Library, from shehita manuals to music manuscripts.

To prepare for the holiday of Purim, the Library invited one of our favorite speakers, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Curator of Art at the JTS Library and Consultant/Judaica at Sothebys. Sharon assisted the Klau Library with their early digitization work in the 90s by describing and cataloging our amazing collection of Esther Scrolls using her vast expertise and experience in the field.

Her talk, which can be viewed on the library’s Youtube channel here, introduced participants to the earliest illuminated Esther Scrolls, from around 1570, one of three in the world. This scroll displays a decorative border printed onto the parchment which was repurposed from a book of calligraphy of the Latin alphabet. The talk continued with exploration of scrolls decorated by hand with an architectural style, and continued on as the illumination began to take on the motifs of Purim with festive flowers and scenes from the Purim story itself. The lecture closed with striking examples of more modern megilot by Otto Geismar, a Berlin artist who completed his “art nouveau” style megillah in 1936, and prolific Israeli artist Avner Moriah with his vibrant and detailed work.

Many of these beautiful scrolls are available for you to view in their entirety on our manuscript site in the Esther Scroll section here.

We are very grateful to Sharon Liberman Mintz for providing this wonderful introduction to the collection and hope you will join us for future lectures in this series

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