In his cypher book, Martin Page let his artistic skills shine, but when the time came to put his life into words, Page resorted to idiosyncratic text in an idiosyncratic format.
Long before Jack Kerouac taped sheets of paper together and fed them into his typewriter to create the On the Road scroll, Martin Page decided that individual pages were too limiting for what he had to say, so he glued about a dozen sheets of individual paper into two scrolls, one measuring nearly six feet in length and the other just over four*.
The text of the scrolls is written in a spidery hand, possible indicating the shakiness of advancing age. Since no description would really do the text justice, here are a few selections:
Jokes, like this one, are common—
A young man stepped into a bookstore and said he wanted to get a young man’s companion. Well, Sir, said the book seller, here is my daughter.
Or observations on issues taken from his life (spelling and punctuation left unchanged)**—
One of my acquainces died Childleless and left his Wife by will as long as she remained his widow avaluable house and all his Personal Property, that she might live independent she made agreat take soon got married, the nexday his Brothers cam in and tooke all of her property and left her poor, her husband that maried for the property found it all gone he left her, would it not be best to give the Wife whare thare is no children such a part on of his Property free and clear of any incubrance, whare tharer is children it belongs to them after Her derth, a man has right to Prevent his widow from marying after he is didd
They come to us, we must soon go there.
Or the occasional gnomic passage that completely defies description—
What bones governs the world the cutridge bon the bull Ballet Bon and Bun et Bon, Interest is the King who Rules the world.
And for anyone planning a menu based on historic recipes, Page’s codfish and potatoes recipe sounds pretty good (you might consider pairing it with Benjamin Franklin’s milk punch)—
With the Cook I went to work pounding up dunfish Codfish and new Potatoes in the moster with a Little flour Plenty of fresh Butter a little mustard Oil Clover mau and Pepper as thisck and fine as Indian Bread dow, put in the Pan and baked a little when put on the table asked what it was I told them Fish and Potatoes, a baked Pie, they made the mount of Their dinner of 8 it was Excellent the best Pie They Ever tasted
* “Reminiscences,” in the Martin Page Papers, MSS 599, Box 1, Folder 14, Rhode Island Historical Society. Transcription folder 14a. www.www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss599.htm
** Transcription by Harriet Sprague Doolittle Rosch, one of Page’s descendants.