A Glossument

A Glossument

Overview: This semester-long, cross-disciplinary student project will be a graphic representation of a student crowdsourced glossary, developed on the class’ shared OpenLab course site. Based on artist Tom Phillips’s altered text “A Humument,” it will allow students to create a personal portfolio of words to highlight different ways of seeing design and writing concepts in the two First-Year Learning Community courses: COMD1100 & ENG1101

Problem: Using a found hardcover book you will create an entirely new written and visual document that encompasses your exploration of the ways we see, read, hear, speak, touch, and understand the world. Use multiple techniques to communicate: painting, drawing, and cut-up,  as well as writing forms such as collage and concrete poetry.

Learning Outcomes:  You will learn new terminology, experiment with various ways of representing knowledge, and demonstrate different ways of seeing and communicating words and ideas.

Materials/Techniques: a found hardcover book (used or purchased for $1 or less), variety of materials (paint, pencil, collage papers, knife, scissors, glue, tape, etc.)

Inspiration: In 1966 artist Tom Phillips set himself a task: to find a second-hand book for threepence and alter every page by painting, collage and cut-up techniques to create an entirely new version. He found his threepenny novel in a junkshop on Peckham Rye, South London. This was an 1892 Victorian obscurity titled A Human Document by W.H Mallock and he titled his altered book A Humument. The first version of all 367 treated pages was published in 1973. Since then there have been four revised editions. A Humument is now one of the best known and loved of all 20th Century artist’s books and is regarded as a seminal classic of postmodern art.

Milestones: Be prepared to present your altered book to the class on the following dates: September 17th, October 18th, November 26th, and December 17th & December 20th (Final)


  • Find/buy a book for no more than $1.
  • Each week, choose 1 glossary entry from our shared class blog. The entry can be your own or one a fellow classmate has shared.
  • Using Tom Phillips’ original A Humument and other references, alter 2 or more pages in your book to represent each glossary word.
  • Experiment with blocking out and/or revealing certain areas of text or individual words to communicate your word and its meaning. Use pencils, paint, inking pens, black paper, cutting tools, and collage materials to create your pages.
  • Consider the entire book and the timeframe (15 weeks) to complete the project.  You will have some time in class to work on this project, but you will need to devote time outside of class, as well.
  • When choosing your weekly glossary words, think about how each chosen word relates. Do you want to create a theme or connection between the words?
  • Think about how a reader/viewer would navigate, understand, and explore your Glossument.
  • By the end of the course you should have completed your book and represented 10-15 glossary words.
  • Experiment, play, explore. These should be beautiful objects when complete.