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A Humument

A Treated Victorian Novel

Tom Phillips

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The final, 50th anniversary edition of Tom Phillips’s ‘defining masterpiece of postmodernism’

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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.

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.

A Times Higher Education Book of the Year

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'Simply astounding … and addictive'
Stephen Fry

'Visually stunning'
Daily Telegraph (50 Best Books of the Year)

'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

'Provokes questions about the balance of intentionality and chance in both art and life'
Times Literary Supplement

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Edition Type: New Edition

Size: 17.5 x 12.5 cm

Extent: 392 pp

Publication date: 27 October 2016

ISBN: 9780500519035

About the Author

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. Tom Phillips is also an ardent Africanist. His groundbreaking exhibition ‘Africa: The Art of a Continent’ at the Royal Academy in 1992 attracted huge crowds and enthusiastic reviews. He is himself a collector of African Art, specializing in the arts of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

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