A Humument 50th Anniversary

A Humument

A Treated Victorian Novel

1966 - 2016
  1. Tom Phillips
  • ISBN 9780500519035
  • 17.50 x 12.50 cm
  • Hardback
  • 392pp
  • illustrated in colour throughout
  • First published 2016

The final edition of Tom Phillips’s ‘defining masterpiece of postmodernism’, published to mark 50 years since the artist’s first encounter with the novel 'A Human Document', which he transformed into 'A Humument'

A Humument spread

‘Simply astounding … and addictive’ – Stephen Fry
‘Visually stunning’ Daily Telegraph top 50 books of the year
‘Phillips has decorated, distorted, sampled, remixed and reworked it for 50 years to produce one of the most original, fascinating and lovely books of all time’– Brian Eno
‘Utterly original, delightful and idiosyncratic’– David Lodge
‘Astonishes the eye and amazes the mind’– William H. Gass
'... an epic of bawdiness, indirection, verbal and visual digressions, and sheer pleasure in language, colour and shape'- The Economist 1843

In 1966 the artist Tom Phillips set himself a task: to find a second-hand book for threepence and alter every page, by painting, collage or cut-up techniques, to create an entirely new version. He found his threepenny novel in a junk shop on Peckham Rye, south London. It was 'A Human Document' (1892), an obscure Victorian romance by W.H. Mallock.

Tom Phillips writes:
‘I took a forgotten novel found by chance. I mined, and undermined its text to make it yield alternative stories, erotic incidents and surreal catastrophes, which lurked within its wall of words. I replaced with visual images the text I’d stripped away. 'A Humument' began to tell, amongst other memories, dreams and reflections, the sad story of Bill Toge, one of love’s casualties.’

First published in 1973, 'A Humument' – as Phillips titled his altered book – quickly established itself as a cult classic. Since then, the artist has been working towards a complete revision of his original, adding new pages in successive editions. That process is now finished.

This 50th anniversary edition presents, for the first time, an entirely new and complete version of 'A Humument'. It also brings this half-century-long endeavour to a close.

Tom Phillips CBE RA is a painter, writer, translator and composer. Collaborators include the filmmaker Peter Greenaway (A TV Dante), the novelist Salman Rushdie (Merely Connect) and the composer Tarik O’Regan (Heart of Darkness). Informing Phillips’s work for half a century, 'A Humument' has appeared in many guises beyond book and exhibition form, including operatically in 'Irma', digitally as an app and aurally, read by the artist himself.