mercredigirl: Text icon: Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality. (Gaultier) (imagination is a weapon)
M. / huimin ([personal profile] mercredigirl) wrote in [community profile] steampunk_nusantara2010-10-18 01:00 am

Notes on the Brass Tablet with Sketches

30. A flat brass tablet, containing erotic sketches.

Item measures 30.5cm × 21cm, with a thickness of 0.5cm. Despite the superior quality of the brass, it weighs a mere 200g. I am inclined to believe that the interior may be at least partially hollow (how else to account for its lightness?), but entering the item into the cross-sectional scanners causes the machines to inform me that it is constructed of lead! Yet another impossibility that I have encountered in the course of my work here.

The rim of the device is carved with an arabesque pattern of curlicues, but the geometric patterns, while very pleasing to the eye, do not correspond with the known artistic styles of any of the traditional civilisations of the area. Rather, it appears a blend of an Islamic-inspired Malay design and the stylised shapes of southern India. This is, however, merely an educated guess. My specialty does not lie in visual art, and I suggest further consultation with the experts in the Art Department.

I had originally imagined that the item was a tea-tray of some sort, but in the course of my examination I discovered a small, round patch in the top right-hand corner on one side. (You shall soon understand how I was able to ascertain how the item should be positioned.) This area feels smoother to the touch, as though it were made out of plastic or some similar material. Upon scrutiny, it was also found to have a slightly darker hue than the rest of the brass. Henceforth, I shall refer to the side with this switch or button as the ‘back’ of the item, and the other side as the ‘front’.

Pressing this button caused the opposite side of the item to display a calligraphic message in a script I was unable to recognise. The intern whom I requisitioned from Linguistics informed me that it was a regional variant of Jawi, but the text itself appeared to be a transliteration of Chinese in the Teochew dialect, reading: ‘Being an Instructive Manual for the Amusement of the Young: Please tap to continue.’

Under the impression that it was some textbook for royal or wealthy children, I therefore tapped what I shall now refer to as the ‘screen’ of the device.

How mistaken I was.

The display on the screen changed swiftly from the original text to a rather… decorous image of a young lady in a boudoir, with her gentleman caller. The caption read ‘On agriculture.’

I suppose that is as good a euphemism as any other.

The image was not precisely photorealistic. It seemed instead to be a charcoal-drawn sketch in monochrome, somehow transferred into the memory space of the device. The remaining images were of similar provenance. The art style reminds me of the ink-and-brush court portraits of Imperial China, in terms of the use of line and colour, but the men and women depicted in the drawings are wearing the dress of the Bugis aristocracy (at least, in the images where they are clothed).

Tapping the screen on the right-hand side caused the display to transition to another image, this time of the same young lady in a scribe’s room. ‘On penmanship,’ read the caption. I began to think there was a pattern to how the pictures would be labelled.

In total, there are 36 different images (I thought it was my bounden duty to count, after all, to make sure nothing of import was left out). Though the device seems to be used habitually in a landscape position, some pictures were oriented portrait-wise, including an interesting anatomical diagram that reveals some uses to which the undergarments of the time period could be put. Even if the orientation of the screen was altered, tapping on what was the right-hand side would always cause it to move to a new image. Strangely enough, touching any other portion of the screen does not cause a similar effect.

When all the images had been viewed in sequence, the screen returned to its original blank display.

My eminent colleague recently speculated that ‘photonic crystals’ were available for esoteric devices such as this. In light of the work that has been done upon this item, I am willing to concur. I would also offer the tentative conclusion that the richer classes, at least, were not loath to employ photonic crystals for entertainment gadgets, which might possibly extend to other forms of entertainment as well.

In the meanwhile, may I recommend that this device be kept strictly out of the hands of the younger interns. In fact, I would like to request a personal loan of the item for at least the next fortnight. For further study, of course. (I would also like to inquire into the feasibility of downloading the images from the device, and of printing them at high resolution. – I might be taking up Art Studies. Skills upgrading, &c., clearly.)

Post a comment in response:

Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.