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Old 26th July 2010, 04:04 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default Sharper than an Indian sword

It is said the pen is sharper than a sword, and maybe it is. Here is a scribers knife – an Ezhuthaani in Tamil. It is late 18th to early 19th century, with the grip scales in ivory.

The blade is to cut the palm leaves in the correct size, and the pointed part is used for writing on the leaves. A real beauty, and the size folded is only 8.2 cm.
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Old 26th July 2010, 04:30 PM   #2
Gavin Nugent
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Nice Jens,

I was recently offered three very fine ivory and inlayed steel examples of these. They are quite beautiful and seem to be found all through SEA.

I have heard of many applications for these knives from simple utensils to carpet weavers knives and scribes knives. They have aslo been discussed at length in these pages...just can't put my finger on the thread and whilst for examples such as these the scribes piece seems correct in my eyes, with your research have you found actual documentation pertaining to their use, I ask as I would like to ID the use and put the guessing to bed for ever.


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Old 26th July 2010, 04:31 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Excellent Jens!! a great example with reference to probably one of the greatest metaphors of all time, and it is true, often the pen (written words) often was far mightier than the (force) of the sword.

What an unusual item, and a very beautiful piece. I admit I never realized, or thought of, the documentation of these times using palm leaves in these regions. I guess paper is another of those things we really take for granted.
What is the script on the blade?

All the best,
Jim
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Old 26th July 2010, 04:53 PM   #4
Jens Nordlunde
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Hi Gav and Jim,

A friend of mine living in Deccan say they were quite common earlier, when people used palm leaves in stead of paper to write on, as it was cheaper and very easy to get.

On the blade it says Poo Pe Pe Si – so your guess is a good as mine to the meaning of this.
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Old 26th July 2010, 06:00 PM   #5
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Hi Jens and Gav,
This is really interesting, and hard to find much information on these. From what I can find, it seems the 'ezhuthaani' term applies primarily to the stylus used to inscribe these palm leaves. Apparantly by deity in Hindu Faith this pertains to Lord Chitragupta, the younger brother of Yama, and who is a scribe and accountant in keeping accounts of the good and bad deeds of individuals. The result is determination of Heaven or hell of course as the time comes.

It would seem by the end of the 18th and into the 19th, and the surrounding presence of the British Raj, the use of the palm leaf would have been more votive than actually required, and perhaps this instrument would have been part of ceremonial use. The relatively modern concept of the folding knife had developed of course from European knives by this time and would have been well known through the increasing British colonial presence as well as trade.
The ivory notably suggests ceremony and the high quality of this very attractive piece seems to support that....the inscription....well I defer

All the best,
Jim
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Old 26th July 2010, 07:15 PM   #6
Jens Nordlunde
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No Jim, I don’t think it was ceremonial at all. I think it was used very much at the time. Think of what paper costs to day, and then think of what it must have cost two centuries ago. The new industry really has changed these costs.

People who wanted to write a letter or to keep house hold budgets could not have afforded to use paper so they would have used palm leaves – as they were used to.

What I have not told you yet is, that it is a gift from a very good friend, who did not want to sell it, but who only would give it as a gift to someone who would really appreciate it - and I do - very much so.
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Old 26th July 2010, 09:40 PM   #7
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Very nice, Jens.

I have a very similar knife, which I originally believed was Thai. Take a look at this thread (my knife is on page two):

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7278

Can you translate the script on my example's handle?

Best,
Andrew
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Old 26th July 2010, 09:51 PM   #8
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Hello Andrew,
Long time no hear, but I have missed you.
Mine is Tamil Nadu, but yours could be Thai - I would not know the difference, only someone who could read the text would be able to say.
Jens
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Old 27th July 2010, 02:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
No Jim, I don’t think it was ceremonial at all. I think it was used very much at the time. Think of what paper costs to day, and then think of what it must have cost two centuries ago. The new industry really has changed these costs.

People who wanted to write a letter or to keep house hold budgets could not have afforded to use paper so they would have used palm leaves – as they were used to.

What I have not told you yet is, that it is a gift from a very good friend, who did not want to sell it, but who only would give it as a gift to someone who would really appreciate it - and I do - very much so.



Jens, I didnt mean for the 'ceremonial' suggestion to diminish the stature of the piece, quite the contrary. It is of superb quality and that was what was meant. I hadnt really realized that palm leaves were used in daily matters, but then hadnt really thought about it either. With that being the case, it is of course an extremely nice knife/stylus and a very nice gift from your friend.
Thank you again for sharing it.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 27th July 2010, 02:55 AM   #10
Gavin Nugent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde

On the blade it says Poo Pe Pe Si – so your guess is a good as mine to the meaning of this.


Sorry, I couldn't let it slip by without out a comment...sounds like something my 22month old boys says...

Seriously though, there are members here who could offer translation, it may prove interesting.....

Gav
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Old 27th July 2010, 04:05 AM   #11
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I partially agree that it's "ceremonial," but only in the sense that lontar writing (lontar is the palm leaf) was largely superseded by paper some time ago, so any recent set probably wasn't used day-to-day. Still, it's great to see this: I'd always thought that the knife and stylus were two separate pieces.

As a side note, the curving lines and open loops of the characters were designed so that writers wouldn't cut holes in the palm leaf or so weaken it (by cutting perpendicularly through the parallel leaf fibers) that the leaf would fall apart. Very function writing system.

Best,

F
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Old 27th July 2010, 09:42 PM   #12
Jens Nordlunde
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Hi Fern,
Send me a mail - not a PM, and I will send you some material about what we have written about before.
Jens
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