Jul. 16th, 2010

frangipani: old map of Southeast Asia (Nusantara)
[personal profile] frangipani
Item consists of 7 sheets of good-quality woodpulp paper, folded in half and bound with a narrow strip of red silk. Each sheet of paper appears to be an individual letter, handwritten with black carbon-based ink, addressed to a “Varsha” (woman-identified, no surname or other names known) from a single unknown writer (see below). There is minor water damage to the outermost layers of paper, but the letters are in otherwise good condition.

The letters were written in the Marathi language, in a combination of Modi (primary) and Devanagari (secondary) scripts. A cursory analysis of their content by one of the linguists determined that the writer was proficient but not entirely fluent in the language, and that the writer and the recipient of the letters were engaged in a relationship that is romantic in nature. The content of the letters is composed of mainly personal news and descriptions of everyday life (extremely useful for the anthropologists).

It is speculated that the writer is restricted to a single sheet of paper for every letter, hence the crammed but painstakingly clear writing. Despite the writer’s less than perfect fluency in the language, none of the letters bear marks of corrections, perhaps indicating the writer drafted each letter elsewhere first before writing out a final version. What free spaces there are in the letters are filled with small sketches or doodles: anatomically-correct renditions of bird wings, dragonflies, various flora found in the Southeast Asian region, and what appears to be diagrams of a ship’s hull.

Unfortunately the letters are undated, though preliminary tests on the paper and ink indicate that they are approximately 70 years old (1940s). We have thus far been unable to identity the name of the writer -- four of the letters bear a word that is likely to be a name (or perhaps a salutation) at the bottom of the last page, but it is in a script unfamiliar to any of the linguists.

Excerpt. )

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