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A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel

4.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  590 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
In the mid-1960s, Tom Phillips took a forgotten nineteenth-century novel, W. H. Mallock's A Human Document, and began cutting and pasting the extant text to create something new. 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 lu ...more
Paperback, Fourth Edition, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Thames & Hudson (first published October 1st 1980)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,282)
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Dec 29, 2012 Forrest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is possibly the most beautiful book I own. It may also be one of the most beautiful pieces of art I own. Oh, and, in a strange way, it's a sculpture, as well. I strongly doubt, however, that you will hear an audiobook version of this work. It just doesn't lend itself to auditory appreciation (unless one likes the sound of pages flipping, which is, I must admit, one of the more pleasing sounds to my ears). And describing the work doesn't do it justice at all. This is an artifact that one mus ...more
Paul Bryant
Apr 21, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who write in books
The sculptor takes a great lump of marble and chips away and after swearing and downing much alcohol finally the statue that was hiding in the marble is revealed. Tom Phillips starts off with an obscure Victorian novel called A Human Document by W H Mallock (read it? no, no one has) and he chops this and that away from every page, by overpainting, blanking out etc etc - until the pages look like this

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or this

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and a million more variations. The fanatical attention Tom Phill
MJ Nicholls
May 05, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it
The word "novel" is somewhat misleading here (at least for non-arty types like me who rarely visit galleries).

But despite the lack of coherent prose in this book, I was wowed by the remarkable artwork on each page of this "treated" novel. Phillips has isolated key phrases from his source text and created poem-paintings for each page.

The end result is an abstract, luxurious visual feast – an enduring marriage of text and art.
Jul 11, 2015 Andreea rated it it was amazing
I was reluctant when I first heard about this book, but read it anyway at my teacher's recommendation. It was a really nice surprise and I can see why some people say it's the book that comes closest to a work of art.
It reads like a blank verse poem. Some of the associations of words and ideas were so unexpected and beautiful, I ended up smilling like an idiot on my journey home.
And it seems this is a work in progress, as the author keeps adding other pages with every new edition published.

 photo WP_20150701_14_11_41_Pro.jpg
When I first stumbled across this in the library I was horrified at the thought of doing such things to a book (yes I am that much of a geek, it's okay I'm fine with this) but then I took a moment to read the story behind how and why Phillips did so and I must say I am a convert (and pleased that he has kept the original unscathed!). He has managed to breathe new life into an old work that would otherwise have been left forgotten on dusty shelves and in doing so has opened up a whole new genre o ...more
Sep 13, 2007 Merrin rated it really liked it
Interesting book, this guy took a Victorian novel and painted on every page. He left some words visible on some pages, didn't leave any visible on other pages, and basically turned this completely forgettable novel into art. I love it.
Apr 11, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
Does one really read this? Well, certainly not the way one reads anything else. Ton Phillips has built his life's work around W. H. Mallock's discardable Victorian novel A Human Document. Phillips has created and recreated his Humument (mine's the 4th edition--each different) using Mallock's text as his canvass. He draws, sketches, and paints over the pages of the text, creating his own text through excision. Phillips' words then are only those words or parts of words in Mallock's text he choose ...more
Beth Wisniewski
Jan 21, 2016 Beth Wisniewski rated it it was amazing
Absolutely LOVED this book! It was beautifully illustrated and the poems were unique, funny, and sometimes sad. As usual, Allie, you've recommended a book I loved! Thanks!! :)
Dane Cobain
Apr 15, 2016 Dane Cobain rated it it was amazing
Ever since I started, I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this book, because it’s one of the highlights of my entire collection. This is Tom Phillips’ ‘Human Document‘, a ‘treated Victorian novel‘ which is basically a book within a book.

See, Phillips picked up an old Victorian novel and painted over it, so that some of the words are still visible but the entire meaning of the book has changed. It’s an impressive undertaking and it must have taken him forever, because the
Mar 26, 2013 Glenn rated it really liked it
An interesting concept for a book. I enjoyed it. Art meets the written word. Tom Phillips is like a sculptor, finding a new way to make art, removing many of the words from a randomly chosen novel and making a new story from it, with art folded in as well. It doesn't yield a perfectly readable story, but was very well done, and at times it reads like poetry.
Oct 24, 2013 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A treated Victorian novel, an exercise in artistry and perhaps the most captivating work of art I've ever encountered.
Eddie Watkins
Sep 29, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
This really is a beautiful work of art and endless mind/eye stimulator and I finally have my own copy.
May 26, 2014 Gina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This is a great book if you are into collage art and want some inspiration.
Mar 14, 2014 Rooks rated it it was amazing
I think I might never be done reading this book, but technically I have seen every page, so. Each page is so densely rich, even when almost starkly pared down, that I know I will come back to this again and again and again, whenever I want to experience the expansiveness of creative possibility. (Seriously, every freaking page is, well, art.) It is a book of possibles. Also, I want to own every edition now, because apparently they're all different? The edition I do have is an iPad app, and as su ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am using Philips work as inspiration for my a level art project. The love of literature has inspired me to center my project around the power of literature.
Mary Taitt
Nov 30, 2015 Mary Taitt rated it it was amazing
I loved it, fascinating, need to reread it!!!! Wonderful, amazing. Such a work of art and thought. Fun.
Aug 08, 2014 Hans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I sing a book of the art that was / of mind art / though I have to hide to reveal. / now read on"

This is quite simply the work of a lifetime. Tom Phillips creates a new work by adding (drawing, painting, and collage) to every single page of a Victorian novel called A Human Document, or after his additions, A Humument. Beyond his discovery / creation of new characters, I really appreciated his use of lines to create new phrases and sentences--lines, which often served as outlines for figures. Co
Jan 08, 2012 Nicola rated it really liked it
A book that makes you want to put it go recreate it! I thoroughly enjoyed this strange, amorphous, obsessive text. And found myself reflected in the reflections: culling the ones that stood out to me and photocopying them to stick on my wall for inspiration. Phillips uses the antiquated text to funny and touching lengths; I enjoyed the Lewis Carroll/e.e. cummings-esque whimsy and creepiness of the romance that enfolds.

A friend of a friend witnessed this book in an exhibit in Paris and
Mar 30, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Humument, I want to love you and give you 5 stars. The artwork is simply amazing (5 starts), but the story of toge/prose was hit or miss for me (3 stars), so I guess we'll meet in the middle (4 stars).
Jun 02, 2015 Kim rated it really liked it
Gorgeous book! the story line not so intriguing, but the pages themselves are stunning and inspiring
Melissa Schmidty -Schmidt
Aug 28, 2014 Melissa Schmidty -Schmidt rated it it was amazing
Facsimile of the first ever altered book, which is still an active project of the artist. Awesome and clever.
Sarah-jane Lowes
Oct 06, 2012 Sarah-jane Lowes rated it it was amazing
1975 saw the publication of two prolific publications. Ulises Carrion's essay on The New Art of Making Books and Phillips' Humument. Phillips' work provided an excellent case study for my thesis, and highlights as an epoch of change towards the book as an art form. I highly recommend both Carrion and Phillips for a contextual understanding of where the book stops being merely a book and becomes a stand-alone object defined as art.
May seem preemptive to give this latest edition of Phillips' "treated" version of the Victorian novel "A Human Document" five stars--after all, I've barely cracked its spine. And yet, I loved my copy of the third edition and have been longing to replace it since 2000, when I gave it away thinking it would be an easy matter to find another copy. So happy the fourth edition (expanded!) has at last turned up.
Jun 10, 2013 Charles rated it it was amazing
The legendary artists book. Phillips has painted and drawn in the pages of this novel to highlight patters or individual words or little stories. Many of the pages have been exhibited individually. Repays frequent browsing -- there is always something new. Example p114:

on the philosophy mattress tonight. My sister is going to attempt to join the morning after and Aristotle's Ethics.
Oct 17, 2013 Ana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013books, uni
This was amazing. Yet, as someone who gets distracted easily, this was a challenge. You've got the paintings and pictures, which may or may not create a figure, and sometimes words make more sense if you rearrange them yourself, and sometimes the words also create a figure. All of it distracted me and made me forget what I'd read in the page. But it was a nice experience, I guess.
Mar 27, 2013 Allie rated it liked it
Certainly a beautiful physical object, but not a super strong literary work. The text exhumed from the original was pretty haphazard and had neither narrative nor tonal interest. Many of the pages were visually stunning (though many were not) and I'm glad it exists (and that I have access to it) as an early published altered book.
Nov 17, 2007 Nocturna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is technically a book, but all the pages have been painted over, with the exception of a few words here and there. The painter has carefully chosen the words to make sense in the context of the illustration, and to continue from page-to-page to make their own story within a story.
Feb 17, 2009 Anthony rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Phillips draws, paints and collages over the text of every page of an arbitrarily chosen Victorian novel, leaving enough text legible to create a strange, decidedly non-linear new story. A fascinating project similar, but more playful in nature, to Ronald Johnson's RADI-OS.
Jun 15, 2007 Tamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crafty, non-fiction
As the first modern altered book, this was intriguing. However, I think it lost a lot of its appeal since it was a reproduction and didn't show all of the textures that the original would have contained. However, it gave a lot of ideas of what you could do with a "blank" page.
Sep 15, 2012 Brenda rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I love the look of this book. Every page is a work of art. But I hate reading this book. So I finally gave in and gave up trying to get through this book. So out to the garage sale pile it goes. 4 stars for artistic likeability, minus 3.5 stars for unreadability.
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