When Tom Leech, director of the Palace Press, used native grama grass to create end papers for his recreation of Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys, we knew he was onto something special. Now, the University of Texas at El Paso’s Friends of the Library knows it, too. Along with Arlyn Nathan, a book designer and typography instructor at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Leech won UTEP’s 14th Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design.
But that was just the start. Leech and J.B. Bryan also won an honorable mention for the design of Margaret Wood’s memoir, O’Keeffe Stories—the first time a single Press reached such heights in one year.
“It is tremendously gratifying that the judges noted the very qualities that we attempted to get into the book,” said Leech, who also picked up a 2013 Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. “Arlyn and I are equally thrilled for everyone else who worked on the book. Mark Lee Gardner introduced the book, and Ronald Kil created beautiful illustrations. We also included a compact disc with the songs performed by Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout. My colleague James Bourland assisted with the printing, and Priscilla Spitler did the beautiful binding.”
How fitting is it to win for Songs of the Cowboys? Consider: The Press at the Palace of the Governors was established in 1970, when the museum acquired most of the contents of the Estancia News-Herald print shop, including the platen press that printed Thorp’s original Songs of the Cowboys in 1908.
“It was Jack Thorp who was first inspired to preserve cowboy music, and that, in turn, contributed so much to the icon of the American cowboy,” Leech said. “Modest as it is, that first edition of Songs of the Cowboys is a national treasure. It took nearly twenty years of collecting and writing for Jack to get his manuscript to the printer, so our years of work on this new edition seemed well worth the effort.”
Haven’t purchased your copy yet? A few are still available for $350. O’Keeffe Stories is also available for $225. Call the Press at 476-5096 for details.