‘The 100’ #9 – A Humument

No exploration of Text in Art would be complete without the work of  English painter, print maker and collagist, Tom Phillips (1937-). I am showing 4 pages from over 350 of his best-known work: A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel.

In the mid 60s, Phillips went to a bookseller with the intention of buying a cheap book to use as the basis of an art project. He randomly purchased a Victorian novel called A Human Document by W.H. Mallock and began a long project of creating art from its pages.

Phillips paints, collages or draws over the pages, leaving some of the text peeking through in serpentine bubble shapes, creating a “found” text with its own story and different from the original.

Phillips writes: When I started work on the book late in 1966, I merely scored out unwanted words with pen and ink; it was not long though before the possibility became apparent of making a better unity of word and image, intertwined as in a medieval miniature. Painting became the basic technique with some pages still executed in pen and ink only, some involving typing and some using collaged fragments from other parts of the book……..I plundered, mined and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words.

After its first publication in book form in 1980, A Humument became a cult classic. I have the 4th edition, published in 2005 and apparently it is still a work in progress. This book is a brilliant treasure of text in art – it inspired me in the 80s to begin to explore this art form and continues to inspire. If you like this kind of art, buy this book, you will never regret it.

6 thoughts on “‘The 100’ #9 – A Humument

  1. Like the draw over text here. I used to take the race entry and result pages and sketch race horses or greyhounds in motion rounding the rail. Trotters too. Used black ball point because roller ball or felt tip would bleed. Dash of magic marker color here and there. A few uncashed bet tickets would add the collage effect. Sold them in bars – $15 framed or free vodka. Both were a good deal 25 years ago !


    1. great story Carl – I exchanged drawings for doughnuts on the beach in Mexico this year – kind of lacks the romance of your tale but the doughnuts were better than my drawings…


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