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The problem had arisen because I had installed matplotlib

    > to a nonstandard directory with python setup.py install
    > --home=$PREFIX From the documentation
    > [http://matplotlib.sourceforge.net/ installing.html] I had
    > got the impression that MATPLOTLIBDATA also needed to be
    > set= to the directory on which I wanted to install
    > matplotlib ... of course this is *not* the data directory.

Oh yeah, I think the docs are out of date since the data dirs were
recently moved into the matplotlib/mpl-data dir and so you no longer
need to set MATPLOTLIBDATA when installing to non-standard locations,
but if you do set it, it will be respected, for better or worse as you
found out.

An update of the web site docs is sorely needed. Moving it OT the top
of the TODO list....

    > Thanks for your help, & for a really professional piece of
    > software.

You're welcome -- thanks for the kind words.