New York: Targ Editions, 1979. Tall narrow octavo, 12 pages. Original blue-green cloth lettered in gilt, original plain gold dust jacket. Pictorial title page printed in red and black; signed and numbered “1” in ink by Henry Roth on the colophon; ink inscription from publisher William Targ to Roslyn Targ on final blank. Tiny chips to spine ends and corners of jacket.
First edition of the first title in the Targ Editions, the first of 350 copies signed by novelist Henry Roth, warmly inscribed by publisher William Targ to his wife Roslyn Targ. Henry Roth made his name with his 1934 novel of Jewish immigrant life, Call It Sleep. That publication was followed by one of the longest writer’s blocks in American literary history, persisting long after Call It Sleep was rediscovered by a new generation of readers in the 1960s, and canonized as a major American novel. Nature’s First Green, a personal essay published in 1979 as the first title in editor William Targ’s series of fine press editions, marked Roth’s return to publishing: the book is dedicated “to Bill Targ / for the vision and faith to begin anew.” In the essay, Roth recalls the summer he was fourteen, when he lucked into a job at the Fox Theatre downtown: “I was popular for the first time in my life. . . . earning wages of laughter, paid to watch movies and attend vaudeville shows, and then come home to play a stellar role in the simmering Harlem street at night. Even Pop relented in his aloofness and became friendly when I entered the kitchen.” This is the first of 350 copies, inscribed by Targ to his wife, the literary agent Roslyn Targ, who represented Roth: “This first copy for Roslyn -- who made it all possible. With all my love -- Wm. Targ.” A fine dedication copy, with a moving association.