Word Art

This is not the blog post I set about writing.  (That’s the nature of the beast, I hear you say).

In August, I visited the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition as a first-timer.  TV documentation of the selection process, exhibition preparations and the launch event didn’t come near.  I won’t gush.  Suffice it to say that I loved the juxtaposition of different styles, subjects and media against the vividly-painted walls:


and sculptures that parted the throng of visitors as they commanded floor space (not least among them, Cork Dome, by my favourite sculptor, David Nash).


By now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of this post – unless, of course, you’ve seen Tom Phillip’s Humument.


This year, the artist was honoured with an entire room dedicated to what has become the work of a lifetime.



Chancing upon W. H. Mallock’s novel, The Human Document, in 1966, Tom Phillips imposed some constraints upon his love of wordplay but admits that “serendipity is [his] best collaborator.”

Here’s the first treatment of page 33, where he began in 1966:

First version 1973

web source: http://www.tomphillips.co.uk/humument/slideshow/1-50/item/5898-page-33

and its revised treatment in 1994:

4th Edition, 1980 - Page 1

web source: http://www.tomphillips.co.uk/humument/slideshow/1-50/item/5898-page-33

Here’s a re-working of page 4 (2007) that stopped me in my tracks:

4th Edition, 1980 - Page 1

web source: http://www.tomphillips.co.uk/humument/slideshow/1-50/item/5850-page-4

You can read about Humument’s origins, Phillip’s page treatments and revisions here.  You can also view the complete work as a slideshow (although there’s a lot of mouse clicking/navigation involved), including the original pages of text.

I’m still exploring…

1 thought on “Word Art

  1. Pingback: Re-fuelling the writer: a day trip to London | Jayne Stanton POETRY

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