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Targ Editions Archive

Call Number



1953-1994, inclusive
; 1979-1985, bulk


Targ Editions


3.75 Linear Feet in 10 boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


In 1979 book editor William Targ founded Targ Editions, a one-man operation that published books by contemporary authors, poets, and playwrights. There are twenty-five Targ Editions volumes, each a limited edition produced by letter press. Targ Editions includes work by Henry Roth, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Tennessee Williams, and Ray Bradbury. The Targ Editions Archive documents the publication of the Targ Editions books, through correspondence with authors, agents, printers, records of financial transactions, order requests from book sellers and collectors, press clippings and book reviews, and production materials such as manuscripts, paper samples, unbound signatures, and author photographs.

Biographical Note

William Targ (1907-1999) was a successful book editor and well respected in the field of commercial publishing. He is perhaps best known for publishing Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather while editor in chief of G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Targ was born in Chicago to Russian immigrants. His name was originally William Torgownik. A high-school dropout with a passion for books and letterpress printing, Targ took a job as an office boy at Macmillan when he was 18. He opened his own bookshop at 22. From 1942 to 1964 Targ worked as an editor for the World Publishing Company, eventually becoming editor in chief. He then moved to G.P. Putnam's Sons where, in 1968, he bought Puzo's novel for a $5000 advance. According to the New York Times, "'The Godfather' turned out to be the most profitable single novel ever published by Putnam's and the paperback rights were sold for more than $400,000."

Outside of the commercial realm, Targ was committed to the art of bookmanship and the ideals of the Private Press. After retiring from Putnam in 1978, he founded Targ Editions, a one-man operation he ran from his home in Greenwich Village. Targ sought to publish works by contemporary writers that had not been previously produced in book form. The twenty-five Targ Editions include works by Henry Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Tennessee Williams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Norman Mailer--each book a unique volume. As Targ wrote for his Targ Editions checklist: "Each of these books is individually designed (no two formats are alike) and they are produced by letter press and are hand-bound. The various printing papers are of high quality, and enduring—mainly of rag, and deckle-edged. The bindings are of pictorial or decorated boards, and or cloth over boards. Each book is signed by its author. The editions are limited to between 150 and 350 copies each." Copies of most of the Targ Editions volumes are housed in the Fales Library.

In his own Targ Editions volume, Abacus Now, William Targ wrote: "Print can be as beautiful as music; it has the power to move, it is as volatile as stage magic. As a typophile and bookman, now on my own, I look more closely into the genius and works of the men and women who enriched our lives with beautiful books. I observe closely the contemporary typographic scene, the people engaged with the magical 26 letters by which we live... I don't think the private press printer will save the world; but I think that if we are seeking the pure of heart and a wholesome commitment, such a person may be found more readily beside a hand press than, say, in an advertising agency or in the House of Representatives--or in City Hall." William Targ died on July 22, 1999, at the age of 92, in his Manhattan home.


Targ, William. Abacus Now: Footnotes to Indecent Pleasures and Observations on Fine Book Printing, Book-Collecting and Matters Personal including How to Survive in the Computer Age. New York: Targ Editions, 1984.

"William Targ, 'Godfather' Editor, Dies at 92.",New York Times. 25 July, 1999.


The Targ Editions Archive is divided into 26 series: 1-24 each correspond to a different Targ Editions volume, and Series 25 consists of various oversize material. The series are arranged chronologically, beginning with Targ Editions No. 2, John Updike's Three Illuminations In the Life of an American Author, and ending with an unpublished piece by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, what would have been Targ Editions No. 26.

Series I: John Updike, Three Illuminations in the Life of an American Author, Targ Editions No. 2
Series II: Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: Remembrance of Things Little, Targ Editions No. 3
Series III: Saul Bellow, The Nobel Lecture, Targ Editions No. 4
Series IV: Kate Millett, Elegy for Sita, Targ Editions No. 5
Series V: Richard Brautigan. The Tokyo-Montana Express, Targ Editions No. 6
Series VI: Chester Himes, A Case of Rape, Targ Editions No. 7
Series VII: Laura Riding, Descriptions of Life, Targ Editions No. 8
Series VIII: Tennessee Williams, Steps Must Be Gentle, Targ Editions No. 9
Series IX: John Updike, Ego and Art in Walt Whitman, Targ Editions No. 10
Series X: Issac Asimov, Three By Asimov, Targ Editions No. 11
Series XI: John Updike, Hawthorne's Creed, Targ Editions No. 12
Series XII: Diane Wakoski, Saturn's Rings, Targ Editions No. 14
Series XIII: D.R. Benson, Irene, Good Night, Embellished by Edward Gorey, Targ Editions No. 15
Series XIV: Marguerite Yourcenar, The Alms of Alcippe, Targ Editions No. 16
Series XV: Theodore Low De Vinne, The First Editor: Aldus Pius Manutius, Woodcuts by Antonio Frasconi, Targ Editions No. 17
Series XVI: Jorge Amado, The Miracle of the Birds, Targ Editions No. 18
Series XVII: James A. Michener, Collectors, Forgers--And A Writer: A Memoir, Forward by John F. Fleming, Targ Editions No. 19
Series XVIII: W. D. Snodgrass, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Targ Editions No. 20
Series XIX: Wallace Shawn, Our Late Night, Targ Editions No. 21
Series XX: Norman Mailer, The Last Night, Targ Editions No. 22
Series XXI: Eleanor Sullivan, Whodunit: A Biblio-Bio-Anecdotal Memoir of Frederic Dannay, Targ Editions No. 23
Series XXII: William Targ, Abacus Now: Footnotes to Indecent Pleasures and Observations on Fine Book Printing, Book-Collecting and Matters Personal including How to Survive in the Computer Age, Targ Editions No. 24
Series XXIII: M. F. K. Fisher, Spirits of the Valley, Targ Editions No. 25
Series XXIV: Gabriel Garcia Márquez, The Solitude of Latin America, unpublished
Series XXV: Oversize - Series I-XXIV
Series XXVI: William Targ, Secret Lives Manuscript

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of production materials for all the Targ Editions volumes. Materials include correspondence with authors, financial records, production and printing materials, financial documents including purchase orders and press and publicity materials.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections,, 212-998-2596.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Targ Edition Archive; MSS 149; [box number]; [folder number]; New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Roslyn Targ in 2003 and 2018.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Related Material at Fales Library and Special Collections

Fales Manuscript Collection (MSS.001)

Collection processed by

Processed by Melanie Meyers Cushman

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:14:36 -0400.
Language: Finding aid written in English


Fales Library and Special Collections
Fales Library and Special Collections
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