Mapping the Mississippi River: two new Ancient Courses prints!

 
Plate 22, Sheet 13, Ancient Courses Mississippi River Meander
Belt
by Harold Fisk

10"x7" ($35) | 14"x10" ($75) | 20"x14" ($260) | 30"x21" ($1000) | 40"x28" ($1800)

Plate 22, Sheet 14, Ancient Courses Mississippi River Meander
Belt
by Harold Fisk

10"x7" ($35) | 14"x10" ($75) | 20"x14" ($260) | 30"x21" ($1000) | 40"x28" ($1800)

Collect these editions

Map lovers: this double edition release is for you. Today, we’re adding two new prints to our ever-expanding collection of Mississippi River Meander Belt maps, created by cartographer Harold Fisk in the 1940s: Plate 22, Sheet 13 and Plate 22, Sheet 14. In a series of 15 sections (aka sheets), Fisk’s maps chart the changing course of the Mississippi River over several millennia, stretching from southern Illinois to southern Louisiana. Each 20x200 print represents one sheet of the map. As of today, we’ve added 8 of the 15 sheets to our vintage collection, each one carefully remastered by our expert retoucher. Color work and tone-evening goes into the process, some (but not all) of the creases are edited out, file defects are smoothed over, contrast is added to the rivers so they really pop—read more about all that goes into our Vintage Editions over here. You can view the entire Fisk series here, as well as a composite of all the sheets that gives a great sense of where this river rendering would fall on a US map.

Introducing the two previous additions to our Ancient Courses collection, pioneering internet pathfinder and Fisk map fan Jason Kottke of kottke.org wrote:

In their relentless flow to lower ground, rivers like to roam over the landscape, cutting through solid rock and loamy soil alike, gaining advantage here and there where they can. The best and easiest course for a river to take downhill is its current course ... right up until the moment when it's not. Each color in the maps [...] represents a new course, a marker of each time a bend had become too bendy and the river "decided" to take a more direct path. One of my favorite things about these maps—and about art in general—is that they are time machines. [...]

Fisk's maps [...] represent the memory of a mighty river, with thousands of years of course changes compressed into a single image by a clever mapmaker with an artistic eye.

Read the rest of Kottke’s insightful intro here, and catch some cool contextual images on his blog.

Of course we’re in love with this series of cartographic editions, but the Fisk maps have an impressive following all their own. We were thrilled to see Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert post one of these maps on her Instagram, alongside a poignant, personal interpretation of the river’s evolving course. “If you were to look at the history of my life, it looks a lot like this map right here,” she writes. “This map could be a portrait of my heart’s own journey.” Don’t miss her post for the full reflection. (BTW, Elizabeth Gilbert readers will also want to check out our print edition of the cover art for her novel Big Magic.)

Ancient courses with modern meaning. It’s enough to turn a newcomer into one of these maps’ manifold admirers. Select the section that speaks to you, or collect several of our Fisk prints to work your way toward assembling your own meandering Mississippi River, in all her changeable, unruly beauty.

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