I am delighted to discover, via that unfailing source of goodness wood s lot, a blog called Idiotic Hat (run by Mike, a university librarian in Southampton, U.K.), and via this IdioHat post to learn that… well, I’ll let Mike tell it:

Readers of this blog will already know that I am a fan of the eminent British artist, Tom Phillips[…]. Tom’s long-standing (44 year) project to mine aleatory significance from that most unlikely but almost preposterously fruitful I-Ching — the Victorian novel A Human Document by W.H. Mallock, chosen at random from a second-hand bookshop — is already the stuff of legend. If you don’t own a copy of at least one edition of A Humument, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.
Now, incredibly, Tom has made A Humument available as an iPad app.

Like Mike, I neither have nor am likely to have an iPad, but I encourage anything that spreads awareness of this wonderful work (I have the 1982 Thames and Hudson edition); the book has its own website, where you can read about it and see samples. It would take a stern purist indeed to object to this form of defacing a book.


  1. Wow! I did not know about Humument and am right glad to have learned of its existence. Thanks.

  2. I wouldn’t say Tom Phillips is THAT eminent.

  3. J. W. Brewer says

    So that’s where the “this night wounds time” artwork on the back of Starless and Bible Black (the 1974 King Crimson LP) comes from . . . I never knew that.

  4. I wouldn’t say Tom Phillips is THAT eminent.
    Perhaps imminent was meantiment (“an up-and-coming artist”). Or immanent (“his work, while seemingly imposed on an arbitrary book, nevertheless remains system-immanent in the autoreferential illuminist tradition”).

  5. It is possible to like the man’s work, and even the man himself on personal acquaintance, and yet spew out what is written about him. Jes’ sayin’.

  6. He’s not up-and-coming. I remember he gave us some tutorials in the mid-seventies, when I was an art student, and he seemed old even then. Some people liked his work then, though not the students, I remember. My feeling was that he was looking for some personal motivation, something to work on, and using this obscure but self-important pattern making in books as his medium to do it. In short, I’ve always found him pretentious. He’s still working on the same thing, even though art has moved on, as if it were a Guinness Book of Records entry.
    “Eminent artist” in the British art world is a provincial oxymoron that has to do with being a Royal Academician, of whom there are few whose work I admire (mostly those with an international reputations like David Hockney & Anish Kapoor, neither of whose footwear Tom Phillips is fit to lick).
    But don’t let my opinion influence you.

  7. Anish Kapoor: he of the great block of red wax pushed through a doorway ? Didn’t you have a blog on that exhibition back when you started ?

  8. Hmm. Not that long ago, but yes. I like his mirrors in public spaces. He recently put some up in Kensington Gardens a place where I spent a lot of my childhood, and I think it’s a perfect work of art for that location.

  9. (Especially in comparison to most of the other crap they put in Kensington Gardens).

  10. (Like G.F. Watts’s Physical Energy, a Victorian horse without any sex organs.)

  11. Physical Energy, a Victorian horse without any sex organs
    That makes sense. Sexual activity is rather exhausting, so it should be avoided when energy must be conserved.

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