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Jigsaw puzzles have been a favourite children’s toy forever, or at least it seems that way. In fact, jigsaw puzzles were created as educational tools to teach geography. They were known then as dissected maps.
The earliest known publisher of these puzzles is John Spilsbury, a London-based cartographer and engraver. In the mid 1760s he created dissected maps by pasting a paper map onto a thin piece of wood and using a marquetry saw (a jigsaw) to section the pieces. They were expensive, selling for two guineas, equivalent to about $400 today, and were sold only to more affluent households and elite boarding schools. In Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), Fanny Price is mocked by her wealthier cousins who declare “Dear mama, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together.”
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that cardboard started to replace wood as the backing, which lowered the cost of the puzzles and made them accessible to all. The use of the word jigsaw to describe this type of puzzle originated during the 1880s.
This Superior Dissected Map of England and Wales is by W. Peacock, who published dissected maps from the 1860s until the 1920s. It is complete and in very good condition. It is one of the few items purchased for the collection.