assorted map pieces


Back in the day when we were small kids, one of the most usual Christmas presents we have received from Santa Claus (which could be also called our “parents” if you already know the truth) is a jigsaw puzzle. 

A jigsaw puzzle is a board game where several flat pieces of cardboard are cut in a certain shape that needs to put together to be assembled and form a whole piece of the image. This game usually gives us a whole bunch of focus to look for every piece to match and fit on. That is when my competitiveness has started, I guess.

Now, looking back to those innocent times, have you ever wondered why on Earth do our parents (or Santa Claus, if you still believe that he really exists) is always giving that same board game every single year?

Is it like, that it is their (or him, if you refer to Santa Claus and have not moved on to that revelation yet) favorite game when they were kids?

If so, then that game should be really, really, really old. Is it not?


Well, I guess it is because this over 200-year-old jigsaw puzzle was created in the year 1762. Pretty much older than us, Generation Y people! And yes, I am one of those “people”.

So as I was saying, we can say that this long-lived jigsaw puzzle game has been here for quite some time now. Then, who is the person behind this? Who invented jigsaw puzzles? Well, he is John Spilsbury, a British cartographer (someone who makes maps) and engraver.

He did this all-time favorite past-time game to help kids in his hometown with their geography subject in a fun way. Back then, he used to give pasted maps on woods that were cut into pieces and gave them to play and assemble on.

Since maps are the first images used in jigsaw puzzles, are you wondering what those places are? Well, I guess your hunch is correct! Continents. Continents of the world were one of the first images of jigsaw puzzles. Asia, Africa, America, and places in Europe, such as England, Ireland, and Scotland were also used before.

This eventually became not only a fun game for kids but also an educational tool too. From then on, its popularity grew and grew until now.


Now, the thing is, where did that “jigsaw” word in the jigsaw puzzle came from? 

Well, we all know that jigsaw is a type of horror movie that the main character intended to kill his subject in various gruesome ways, right? But that is not where it came from, obviously.

It came from the jigsaw cutting tool that our father’s father used in carpentry in our backyard on a Sunday afternoon to create a small chair and table for tea parties or replaced broken wooden fences.

Do you imagine and remember it now? Then, good! So the next question is, what now? Do I mean that this cutting tool was the inspiration for the name of a jigsaw puzzle?

Well, not exactly. Why? Because the jigsaw cutting tool was invented in the 19th century. Pretty much later than the time when John Spilsbury has cut those woods with maps pasted on it.

We can say that the old name of jigsaw puzzle is dissected puzzle prior to the invention of the jigsaw.

And when the jigsaw cutting tool was invented, it made it a lot easier for those puzzle makers to cut pieces of the puzzles thus, renaming it into jigsaw puzzle. 

Therefore, if the original name of jigsaw puzzle is “dissected puzzle”, we can refer a person who plays jigsaw puzzles as “dissectologist”.

Is it not cool, Puzzlers?

How I wish that its old name was retained, though. Like, you could go to a store and ask a salesperson if they have a “dissected puzzle” on the stock. It feels like you are a doctor who is trying to practice your surgery skills on cardboard, right?

Going back, since the invention of the jigsaw came about, more and more jigsaw puzzle makers invested their efforts to cut woods into jigsaw puzzle pieces, for it is much easier compared to how they cut previously.

With its growing popularity from that time on, jigsaw puzzles have upgraded one way or the other.

Children are not the only ones who play it, in fact, adults used this game too to kill some time and enjoy the Sunday afternoon breeze in their backyards with a cup of tea or coffee on their side tables.


Technological improvements in our history mark the beginning of more advanced techniques in various ways to make life more easier.

Since the invention of the jigsaw came about, cutting pieces of various images for jigsaw puzzles was made easier.

Also, printing techniques such as lithographic printing (it is a type of printing where original images were placed on a flat surface and added ink on to print the image on a blank canvas) help puzzle makers produce more.

An increase in jigsaw puzzle demands was seen in America in the period of the Economic Great Depression in 1929. This was because a lot of free time (or what we call now “me time”) was needed to kill due to unemployment.

So when boredom strikes, jigsaw puzzles came to the rescue!

With the high demand for the product, manufacturers used a different type of strategy to produce more products. Instead of using wood, they have decided to use a softer material such as cardboard. Well, of course, you would not use a jigsaw anymore in cutting cardboard, am I right my dear puzzlers?

Using a softer material made it easier to cut images in batches using die cutting method. This process used a dinking die (a type of sharp material with a specific shape to cut a soft material) to cut through a bunch of cardboard all at once. With these, prices were able to be sold at a low cost.

And of course my dear Puzzlers, with that “low cost” type of entertaining piece of a game that many could be able to afford, some business-minded people have used that precious game of ours as a marketing strategy to use other images to promote their products or what so ever thing the wanted to advertise to the public.

And that gave birth to many types of images now that we can see in various jigsaw puzzle games.


Therefore, the history of Jigsaw Puzzle, all rooted back to a British cartographer and engraver named John Spilsbury. He is the first one who has used to cut maps into pieces so that children in his hometown could use them to put them back together and study geography more efficiently.

Since maps were the first image to be used in jigsaw puzzles, it was then called “dissected maps” and not jigsaw puzzles for the jigsaw cutting tool has not yet been invented at that time. Meanwhile, those people who enjoy playing jigsaw puzzles as then called “dissectologist“.

When technology and advancement kick in, jigsaw cutting tools were invented and were then used to cut pieces of jigsaw puzzles. Thus, the birth of the name “Jigsaw Puzzle” came.

As time passed by, and when Economic Great Depression takes place, its popularity became a great hit for people to be more entertained.

With this, cost-efficient manufacturing methods were used for mass production such as cardboards and die-cutting methods.

And that is how our Jigsaw puzzles came to exist, Puzzlers.


So here is the final cut of the history of jigsaw puzzle in bulleted form for your convenience.

  1. Mr. John Spilsbury, a British cartographer (someone who makes maps) and engraver, had invented the first ever jigsaw puzzle in 1762.
  2. The original name of the jigsaw puzzle is called “dissected puzzles” for the jigsaw tool used to cut a “jigsaw” puzzle piece was not yet invented at the time.
  3. The one who plays jigsaw puzzles is originally called a “dissectologist”.
  4. An increase in jigsaw puzzle demands was seen in America in the period of Economic Great Depression in 1929.
  5. Its popularity then grew from that time on because of low-expense manufacturing using cardboard and die-cutting method.


Now, here is my personal take on the history of jigsaw puzzles, my dear Puzzlers. In my opinion, if Mr. John Spilsbury was not a kind-hearted man to children, maybe jigsaw puzzles will not exist.

I guess he is a man who wanted those kids to see that the world is not only indeed round but also, huge enough for them to explore on. I think he wanted them to “pick up those pieces” to realize that they could get to see the world “one piece at a time”.

Sounds like a cliche, isn’t it? But I guess that is how he envisions that thing he had done for those children before. But as we all know, there are always two sides to a coin.

If that was really what Mr. Spilsbury is thinking way back then, other people were thinking that what he did was a great idea to kill off some time by entertaining themselves with their children using that game.

Well, whatever reasons behind in making such a game, it serves its purpose one way or the other anyway.

And I would like to congratulate Mr. Spilsbury on that! (I am so late to say that, of course, but I hope, where ever he is now, he will appreciate it, though.)

How about you, Puzzlers? What are your thoughts about the history of Jigsaw Puzzles?

Is it as puzzling as its name? Maybe or maybe not?

What are your puzzling thoughts about Mr. John Spilsbury? Could he be named as the “Father of Jigsaw Puzzles”?

I would love to read your insights, Puzzlers!

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  1. WOW! What a well written article! Thank you for sharing the history of jigsaw puzzle. It’s cool to know that dissectologist are once known as people who play these kind of puzzles.

    I hope you write more and continue!

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