Cane, by Jean Toomer (born Nathan Eugene Pinchback Toomer), was first published in 1923 by Boni & Liveright. With a first printing of only 500 copies (and commensurate sales, in spite of positive critical reception), Cane was reprinted in 1927 and in 1967, on Toomer's death. Subsequent editions have included a Harper & Row Perennial Library edition in 1969, in the midst of the Black Studies boom (as a 1968 Booklist review of the forthcoming edition noted, -I'm paraphrasing here - "everyone is scrambling for black authors now"). The 1969 edition bore a helpful introduction by Arna Bontemps, but this was superseded by Darwin T. Turner's excellent scholarly introduction to the 1975 Liveright reissue. Turner later edited a Norton Critical Edition of Cane (1988). (By this time, of course, Liveright (formerly Boni & Liveright) had been acquired by W.W. Norton.)
Liveright reissued the 1975 edition in 1993. In 1994, Random House's Modern Library issued an edition of Cane - ironically, since the Modern Library had been the mainstay of Boni & Liveright in 1923. In fact, it was the stable success of the Modern Library that allowed Horace Liveright to take chances on unproven authors like Toomer. Liveright sold the Modern Library to Bennett Cerf in the mid-20's, being in need of cash; Cerf went on to found Random House with the Modern Library as its anchor. In 2000 San Francisco's Arion Press issued 400 copies of a very lovely edition of Cane - large, hardcover, and containing woodcuts by Martin Puryear, with an Afterword by Leon F. Litwack. Most of the reprints, including the 1993 Liveright, are missing the first of the three arcs that appear before the three sections of the book (i.e., the arc that should appear before the first section), and which Toomer famously wrote to Waldo Frank were indicative of the book's structure. The Norton Critical Edition and the Arion Press edition restore it.
In 1923, Toomer was fairly new on the New York literary scene, having spent several years kicking around the Midwest and South at various schools and jobs, including agricultural school in Wisconsin and physical education school in Chicago. His first publication was "Song of the Son," published in the April 1922 issue of the NAACP's magazine Crisis. Approximately half of the pieces that appear in Cane were published in various periodicals of the period, including Liberator, Modern Review, S4N, and Broom. It is interesting to note that while Crisis was, of course, one of the key periodicals of the Harlem Renaissance, others of the magazines in which Toomer published, like Broom and Little Review, were distinctly avant-garde, containing works by famous folk like Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, Kenneth Burke, Virginia Woolfe, William Carlos Williams, and Marianne Moore. For this reason, many people see Toomer as occupying an interesting and liminal position between modernism and the (in Nathan I. Huggins's estimation, "provincial" - and in everyone's view, highly socially engineered) Harlem Renaissance.
Toomer met Lola Ridge, the American editor of Broom, through his publications, and it was at one of her parties that he met author Waldo Frank, with whom he later became close friends. Frank pitched Cane to his own publisher, Horace Liveright, by emphasizing multiracial Toomer's "Negro" heritage. In a time when, as Langston Hughes said, "the Negro was in vogue," Liveright played up Toomer's African-American background in advertising Cane, much to Toomer's annoyance, as Toomer thought of himself as one of the first members of "the American race." Frank and Toomer exchanged effusive letters, calling each other "brother" and whatnot, and Toomer dedicated "Kabnis," the third section of Cane, to Frank. Frank in turn wrote the introduction to the first edition of Cane, gushing that "this book is the South" - coming from a man who had to take a trip to the South in order to gather material for his novel Holiday (Boni & Liveright 1923).
Scholars seem to agree that his association with Frank led Toomer to his literary undoing, since it is through Frank that Toomer met Frank's wife, Margaret Naumberg, who in turn introduced him to the philosophies of Armenian mystic Georges Gurdjieff. Darwin Turner blandly notes that Toomer's turn to Gurdjieff "marred his writing," and he never sold another full-length work.