The IBM 1403 line printer that would have been used to print out from the IBM 1401.
The IBM 1403 line printer that would have been used to print out from the IBM 1401.
The IBM 1401 Data Processing System with the 1402 Card Read-Punch on the left, the 1401 Processing Unit in the middle and the 1403 Line Printer on the right.
The IBM 1401 Data Processing System with the 1402 Card Read-Punch on the left, the 1401 Processing Unit in the middle and the 1403 Line Printer on the right.
Detail map of Chicago, Illinois, United States Overview map of Chicago, Illinois, United States

A: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Dan Flavin "Issues" the First "Print on Demand" Book from an IBM 1401 Variable-Wordlength Decimal Computer

12/9/1967 to 1/14/1968
Illustration of Flavin's book as reproduced in the Jonathan A. Hill Catalogue.
"Title page and Acknowledgements" of Flavin's book as reproduced in the Jonathan A. Hill Catalogue.
In November 2020 Jonathan and Yoshi Hill described a copy of Dan Flavin: Pink and 'Gold' / Dec. 9th thru Jan. 14th 1968 in their Catalogue 234: Art Books, Artist' Books, Book Arts and Book Works (New York City 2021) item No. 33. This exhibition catalogue was a print-out from punched cards on eight sheets of continuous feed green bar computer paper with perforated margins from a rented IBM 1401 computer
at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago during an exhibition by the American minimalist artist Dan Flavin. Each visitor to the exhibition could print out their own copy of the catalogue, and because of the idiosyncracies of the way the paper fed through the printer, and the characteristics of the 1403 line printer, each copy was slightly different from the next.

This exhibition catalogue was undoubtedly the first art museum exhibition catalogue ever printed out on demand by computer, and it is very possible that it was also the first "print on demand book" of any kind. It is also a peculiar landmark in the history of printing and computing, as it may be one of the first documented "books" that exists solely as a computer print out rather than the more typical form of book produced during this decade of a computer print out pasted up and printed by offset.

The Hills described their copy as follows:

"The catalogue contains Acknowledgments and a Foreword from the museum’s director, Jan van der Marck (1929-2010); an introduction — consisting of quotes from Flavin, Donald Judd, and Roland Barthes — compiled by Dan Graham; statement by Flavin, dated 6 December 1967; a primitive Wall Plan recreating the layout of the exhibition; Biography of Flavin; and finally a selected Bibliography by the Artist.

"From the MCA’s website: “Holding interesting parallels to the usage of commercial iBM technology by members of the Fluxus movement like George Maciunas, the application of the computer in Pink and ‘Gold’ functioned in line with Flavin’s other conceptual aspirations. As a piece of standardized commercial technology often used in banal, corporate settings (like florescent light tubes) the catalogues produced by the machine were meant to be equally interchangeable, commodified, and serially produced. one reason Flavin may have never ventured to use similar technology in his work again is the fact that he was so disappointed with the production quality of the catalogues themselves. unlike the pristine, identical appearances of his light installations, the catalogues were often irregular in appearance—containing unique attributes like different orientations, paper types, spacing errors and missing words.”

"A nice and textually complete copy with a fine association. two-inch tear to the final blank leaf and some soiling to the envelope."

Thanks to David Nathan-Maister for calling this to my attention in November 2020.

Timeline Themes