ON Crosby beach not so very far from Liverpool there are a series of human shapes made of iron that are being weathered by time and the sea. Antony Gormley's Another Place installation has been in place now for more than 20 years. According to the sculptor, they are "evolving in time expressed through the slow colonization of their surface by barnacles."

The story of sculpture is the story of how time works on the physical object. That is at least one of the themes of a new book, Shaping the World, written by Gormley in conjunction with writer and critic Martin Gayford. Itself something of a sculptural object, the book looks at the artform from prehistoric times to the present day, from the work of unknown ancient Egyptians to Andy Goldsworthy, via Michelangelo and Rodin among many others.

Our religious beliefs, our desires and fears, all have been carved in stone or cast in metal. "For me," Gormley suggests, "sculpture is an attempt to stop time." Or to leave your mark on it, like barnacles.

Shaping the World, by Antony Gormley and Martin Gayford, is published by Thames & Hudson, priced £40. Photograph Johnny Jones/Alamy Stock © The artist