William Targ studied at public schools.
A high-school dropout with a passion for books and letterpress printing, Targ took a job as an office boy at Macmillan Publishers when he was 18. He opened his own bookstore at 22 in North Clark Street, Chicago.
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 was a unique volume. Each book was 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 and Special Collections at New York University"s (New York University) Bobst Library.
Quotations: "Print can be as beautiful as music lieutenant 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 was a member of Grolier and Rowfant.
On May 1, 1933, William Targ married Anne Jesselson, but his wife deceased in February 1965. On July 30, 1965, he married Roslyn Siegel. Targ had one son, Russell.