Since we released our first Ancient Courses Mississippi River maps back in 2014, fans of the series have been reaching out to ask for specific sections, maybe looking for the sheet that shows their hometown or in search of a portion of the map they find particularly pretty. We’ve also heard from several folks eager to complete their collections and frame all of these cool cartographic images to hang alongside each other. But we’d only editioned about half of them—until today! Voilà: all of Harold Fisk’s mesmerizing, meandering Mississippi River maps from the 1940s, painstakingly restored by our retoucher and presented as a complete collection of fifteen limited-edition prints.
Fisk, a cartographer and geologist, created these maps while working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Around 16,000 individual borings allowed Fisk and his team to analyze layers of soil and sediment deep underground, revealing the river’s historic routes, deepening scientific understanding of the major factors involved in its flow and flooding, and shedding light on the formation of the valley over time. The final report, completed in 1944, shows several layers of courses from prehistory to the 20th century, some dating back thousands of years. Together, the fifteen sheets cover the full span of the mighty Mississippi, running from Cape Girardeau, MO to Donaldsonville, LA. See the sheets laid out below, courtesy of Radical Cartography.
More than a feat of geographic study and a striking representation of the Mississippi River’s ever-changing channels, Fisk’s time-traveling report paints a picture of the river’s distinctive personality. We’ve written every which way about these artworks—how the venous pathways pulse with earth-tones, how the images capture the river’s raw, untamable energy, how they act as a doorway to past worlds, how they might be a fitting metaphor for a spiritual journey, etc. Read up on these vintage beauties, a sublime blend of science and art, but don’t forget to snag your favorites (or the whole seriesn!) before they sell out. If there’s one fixed truth about these prints, it’s their popularity!
With art for everyone,