36 Megillat Esther


Mordechai Sofer

Nyitra (Nitra, Slovakia), 1835

paper, engraving

Gift of Lajos Steiner, 1915

Ritual texts, including the Book of Esther, read out on Purim, are traditionally handwritten texts on parchment.  One of the very few exceptions is a Megillat from the 19th century, produced by Mordechai Sofer, whichwas printed on paper from copperplate, and richly decorated. Mordechai Sofer was a STaM (an acronym for a sofer who writes Sifrei Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzot), who earned his living as a scribe of sacred texts, but several of his engravings and illuminated manuscripts also survived.  His Megillat printed on paper is not fit for ritual use; it must have been purchased by enlightened Jews embracing the Haskalah movement.  This scroll consists of three sheets of paper glued together, with text and illustrations from three printing plates. The text is arranged in 11 columns with varying widths. The text of the blessing before the reading of the Megillah is placed in a richly illustrated box at the beginning of the scroll. Mordechai Sofer named himself twice in the text: first, in the middle of the first word in fine micrographic letters, and at the end of the scroll, in an oval field adorned with a robe decorated with crowns: “prepared by Mordechai Sofer STaM, son of Jozl Sofer STaM, in Nitra in the year 594 according to the minor era (1834).”

36 Megillat Esther