The 8th Book of Tan by Sam Loyd
To reproduce another of the puzzling figures previously given, we will take a glance at the poultry-yard, where an idea of doubtful subjects may be gleaned by association with others.
Attention is incidentally called to the feature of a little gosling supposed to be feeding from a box, wherein the bird and the box are assumed to belong to the one design, so that both must be constructed with but seven pieces, although in some cases the box might constitute a separate subject.
This trick is a great feature in the Chinese books, and pertains to the mysterious and paradoxical construction of forms with a disappearing piece. In every instance, as in the scene of the girls playing foot-ball, the ball can be made out of seven pieces, or the pedestal can be made from seven, and yet in the final figure the two are combined so that both together are to be made from the same seven pieces.
The grouping of subjects for picturesque effect, evidently illustrating fables or charades to be guessed, was an important feature of the original work which is practically lost. In many instances, however, the combination of certain figures proves of assistance in discovering the character of others. In the following sketch, supposed to represent Egypt, it begins with the Egyptian cross, said to be the earliest form of the cross used as a gibbet for the execution of criminals. Then we have the Pyramid and Obelisk, which pave the way for the introduction of the Sphynx and a crocodile, which under ordinary circumstances might not have been recognized.
The hieroglyphics show figures which are common to both Egyptian as well as Chinese inscriptions:
Regarding the spiritual or mythological interpretation of Chinese philosophy, which, as the Rev. Hamden C. DuBose has shown, defies all attempts at elucidation, the following specimen may be taken as being one of the most simple. It may possibly illustrate some fairy tale upon the lines of the Arabian Nights, but Professor Challenor has called attention to the fact of the six geometrical figures standing in the foreground as appearing in all editions of Tangrams as ancient designs of tombstones.
The upper part of the picture seems to represent a dark mountain, to which departed spirits are supposed to be flying, pursued by winged beasts, birds, and fishes. There appears to be a lake of water (or brimstone, perhaps), into which one human being has fallen, and is attempting to reach a typical Charon's barge. This is the only one, out of several score of weird pictures of this character, which is in any way self-explanatory or suggestive of a possible interpretation:
Regarding the scope of possibilities of Tangram designing it may be said that the same is bounded only by the imagination or audacity of its votaries. There is absolutely nothing too difficult to be essayed. The art of originating new designs is in its infancy, for, aside from the few impromptu figures here thrown together to elucidate the scheme, nothing has been added to the collection of designs for upward of 3.000 years.
An inexhaustible field stands practically unexplored, for it can certainly be said that 10,000 pictures, better than any here shown, can readily be designed. No one person,possibly, could make that number of fine pictures; it would consume too much time and no one's personal knowledge would be apt to extend over such a wide range of subjects. There is not a boy or girl in the land, however, who with a little practice cannot develop sufficient artistic ability to portray the familiar objects of their home life or surroundings with as correct or better fidelity than has been shown in these hastily thrown together illustrations. We are merely showing what can be done, and it is the perfect confidence in the thousands of others who can contribute better pictures than any here shown that induces the writer to volunteer to be "The fool who will write the eighth book of Tan," which is to illustrate the progress of civilization up to the present day.
Such a collection does not of necessity have to be restricted to modern inventions, like the following array, which comes naturally to one's mind, showing a locomotive and a steamship; some pistols; a flying-machine chasing a balloon; a stereopticon, telephone, and phonograph, as well as a foundry, coal-breaker, machine-shops, and light-house: