A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel

In the mid 1960s, inspired by William Burroughs's "cut up" writing technique, Tom Phillips bought an obscure Victorian novel for three pence W. H. Mallock's 1892 novel. "A Human Document. He began cutting and pasting the extant text, treating the pages with gouache and ink, isolating the words that interested him while scoring out unwanted words or painting over them. The result was "A Humument and the first version appeared in 1970. The artist writes, "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. As I worked on it. I replaced the text I'd stripped away with visual images of all kinds. It began to tell and depict, among other memories, dreams and reflections, the sad story of Bill Toge, one of love's casualties." After its first publication in book form in 1980, "A Humument rapidly became a cult classic. Phillips has continued to revisit Mallock's novel and this new fourth edition follows its predecessors by incorporating revisions and reworking over a hundred pages are replaced by new versions and celebrated an artistic enterprise that is itself some forty years old and still actively a work in progress.