Make sure you fully understand how RS232 is connected and the relationship between pin numbers and signals at either side of the connection. Note that the connections are (usually) not made directly between the numbered pins on each connector but are crossed in pairs (txd and rxd are crossed, and so on).
Yup... Got it... The manual does say that the cable should be a one to one or a straight through cable.
I don't believe you need to actually send or receive anything over the serial port at this stage - you're testing the signaling preamble that precedes the data transfer.
This makes sense to me. Make sure that the recorder is looking for data first and then once thats complete move on to bigger and better things!
Do not wire the CTS & RTS pins on the 9 pin D-sub connector directly to the arduino pins as this will probably knacker your arduino. The MAX232 board you have has a spare RX/TX pair so you could try and connect relevant wires onto these spare pins so the MAX232 does your TTL/RS232 level conversion needed for the RTS/CTS signals.
So db9 pin 7 to pin 7 on the chip, and db9 pin 8 to pin 8 on the chip. Then connect the chip pins 10 and 9 respectively to my arduino?