Taco,

> > So, I guess it would make sense to test the compiler directly:
> > what is the most basic way to trigger mplib from a plain tex file
> > directly run through LuaTeX (i.e. the equivalent of the startMPgraphic
> > if any? (And this might provide some more information on what's going on.)
 
> Just look at mlib-run.lua from the context distribution, it should
> be clear enough.

Thanks for the pointer.  I played a bit with pdfluatex directly which
seems to work. (I'm not to the point of producing figures, because I
would have to rebuild all the functions that are located in mlib-run.lua
and the luatexref-t.tex does not give straightforward example of how the
mplib module should be used, it only describes the functions API. Btw:
could you add in the doc a simple example of how to set up an mplib instance
(loading the format file) and typesetting a minimal graphic, and then
use it from within plain TeX for instance; this is transparent to
conTeXt users since there are files like mlib-run.lua but not easy for
plain TeX users :P  And I'm not advocating the use of plain TeX,
I'm a converted conTeXt user since 2003, but this will help user
understand (a bit) how things work behind the scene.) 

Thanks for your (and all the posters') interest,
Olivier
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