Tetrad Press, 1970. Item #3100
Clamshell box, 8 1/4 x 12 1/8 in., cloth over boards with title printed in white above a duplicate of p. 283 signed by the artist, which is imbedded into the front panel of the box and protected by a clear plastic cover. The interior of the box is lined with decorated paper and is designed such that the pages of the book are presented in two stacks. The box was commissioned by Tom Phillips.
Included are the title page folio indicating that this is no. 21 from an edition of 100 copies, a descriptive folio, dedication page, and 367 individual pages each signed in full by the artist. The box shows light shelf wear, the pages are fine.
In 1966, Tom Phillips embarked on a pivotal project with a simple premise: to find a second-hand book for threepence. After this acquisition, he planned to alter every page with painting, collage, and cut-up techniques, in order to create an entirely new version of the book. For these purposes, he obtained a copy of W. H. Mallock's obscure 1892 Victorian work, titled A Human Document, at a junkshop on Peckham Rye, South London, and retitled his altered book A Humument. The first printing of this extraordinary work was issued by Ian Tyson's Tetrad Press in a series of boxed pages, 1971–1976 (the complete edition comprises 367 pp.); on the fiftieth anniversary of its inception, in 2016, Phillips completed the sixth and final version of this work, each version with successively more pages reworked, until his original work had itself been completely transformed.
Now regarded as a seminal classic of postmodern art, and one of the most important artists' books of the twentieth century, A Humument has become a touchstone of Phillips's oeuvre. The Royal Academy’s 2015 Summer Exhibition dedicated a full room to it, and the manuscript was acquired by the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.
In Artforum, William H. Gass writes: "Influenced early on by William S. Burroughs' 'cut up' experiments, limited by an arbitrary budget of three pence, guided by propitious chance to Mallock's volume (which, by the happiest of coincidental ironies, is a novel pretending to be a discovered journal), and finally favored by the fact that A Human Document was found in a popular reprint version that might furnish additional copies, Tom Phillips' A Humument comes rationally, arbitrarily, fortuitously, gradually into existence just about the way everything in life does. It begins the way an epic ought: 'The following sing I a book, a book of art of mind art and that which he hid reveal I.'" (Artforum Nov. 1996)