Humument is Tom Phillips treated version of the Victorian novel ”A Human Document” by W.H. Mallock. Phillips transforms the text by drawing and painting over it and revealing just selected words. You can view the converted text online or in book form (Amazon).

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.”



Related: Austin Kleon uses a similar technique for his newspaper blackout poems

blackout poem