a page from Tom Phillips' A Humument
A web site updates Phillips' "treatment" of Hallock's novel, A Human Document; the site features an article by Dan Traister of Penn's Department of Special Collections, at Van Pelt-Dietrich Library
Tom Phillips, A Humument

(from Imagining Language: An Anthology, edited by Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffrey)

A "treated novel" analogous to John Cage's treated piano, A Humument is a sustained manipulation and restructuring of W. H. Mallock's forgotten Victorian novel A Human Document. Working directly on original pages, Phillips eliminates sections of text to reveal residual and previously hidden syntagms. As Mallock's narrative is obliterated a new one appears; its protagonist Bill Toge has a typographic gensis from the treated work "together."

Phillips's multimedia achievement has direct affiliations with William Blake's illumninated books and the medieval illuminated tradition in general. Phillips's first treatments of the book date back to 1966, and publication started in 1970 with a limited edition of ten silkscreen pages. After the first appearance in book form in 1980, a new edition of A Humument was published in 1987 with over fifty revised pages. Phillips's project of systematic revision is ongoing.

To view a video presentation on Phillips, and on the avant-garde art book, click HERE.

Visit a Tom Phillips's discography.