Unraveling the Mystery: Who Invented Jigsaw Puzzles and Why?

Jigsaw puzzles have been a beloved pastime for generations, providing hours of entertainment and stimulating our minds. But have you ever wondered who invented these intricate puzzles and why? The mystery behind the creation of jigsaw puzzles has puzzled many, but with a little detective work, we can unravel the truth. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of jigsaw puzzles and discover the brilliant mind behind this classic pastime. Get ready to solve the puzzle of who invented jigsaw puzzles and why!

The Origin of Jigsaw Puzzles

Early Woodcuts and Engravings

The history of jigsaw puzzles can be traced back to the early woodcuts and engravings of the 15th and 16th centuries. These woodcuts and engravings were used as illustrations in books, pamphlets, and newspapers, and often depicted scenes from everyday life, historical events, and mythological stories.

One of the earliest known woodcuts featuring a jigsaw puzzle-like design is the “House of Bread” from the Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493. This woodcut depicts a house made up of interlocking pieces, similar to the pieces found in modern jigsaw puzzles.

Another example of early woodcuts and engravings with jigsaw puzzle-like designs is the work of the Dutch artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Bruegel’s work often featured complex scenes with many figures and objects, which he would depict using interlocking pieces. One of his most famous works, “Children’s Games,” features a number of children engaged in various activities, with each figure and object depicted as a separate piece that could be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.

These early woodcuts and engravings show that the concept of jigsaw puzzles has been around for centuries, and that the idea of assembling a picture from interlocking pieces has been a popular form of entertainment for generations.

The Evolution of Puzzles

Puzzles have been around for centuries, evolving from simple physical challenges to complex mental exercises. The earliest known puzzles date back to ancient Egypt, where they were used as a form of entertainment and education. These early puzzles were often based on mathematical and geometric principles, such as the famous 15-puzzle, which involves rearranging numbers in a specific order.

As puzzles evolved, they became more complex and varied in their forms. In the Middle Ages, puzzles were often used as a form of religious instruction, with intricate designs and hidden messages used to convey religious teachings. One example of this is the “Puzzle Bible,” which was published in the 19th century and contained puzzles based on biblical stories.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, puzzles began to be mass-produced, with woodcuts and engravings used to create intricate designs. These puzzles were often based on popular themes, such as landscapes or mythological scenes, and were sold as toys and games.

The modern jigsaw puzzle, however, did not appear until the early 19th century. It is believed that the first jigsaw puzzle was created by a man named John Spilsbury, who was a mapmaker and engraver. Spilsbury created his puzzle by cutting a map into pieces and asking his clients to put it back together, thereby helping them learn about geography.

From there, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles grew, with companies such as Hasbro and Milton Bradley creating their own versions of the puzzle. Today, jigsaw puzzles remain a popular form of entertainment and challenge, with new designs and themes constantly being created.

The Birth of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles have been a beloved pastime for many for centuries, but who was the original inventor of this intriguing and challenging game? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might think, as the origins of jigsaw puzzles are shrouded in mystery and legend.

One of the earliest known jigsaw puzzles dates back to the 17th century, and was created by a French cartographer named Roger Bacon. His puzzle, titled “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” depicted a scene from a painting by Jan Proost, and was made up of 100 pieces. However, it is unclear whether this puzzle was the first of its kind, or simply the earliest known example.

Another early jigsaw puzzle was created in 1742 by a man named John Spilsbury, who was a mapmaker and engraver. Spilsbury’s puzzle was a teaching aid for children, designed to help them learn about the different regions of England and Wales. The puzzle consisted of a map printed on a sheet of wood, which was then cut into pieces with different regions highlighted.

Despite these early examples, the true origin of jigsaw puzzles remains a mystery. Some believe that they were invented in Europe during the 17th or 18th centuries, while others believe that they originated in China, where similar puzzles were created using woodblock prints.

Regardless of their true origin, jigsaw puzzles have become a beloved pastime around the world. They offer a unique challenge, as well as the satisfaction of completing a puzzle and seeing the final image come together. Whether you are a seasoned puzzler or a newcomer to the hobby, the mystery of the jigsaw puzzle’s origins only adds to the intrigue and excitement of this classic game.

The First Jigsaw Puzzles

Key takeaway: Jigsaw puzzles have a long and fascinating history, with roots dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The puzzles have evolved over time, with different materials and shapes being used to create the puzzles. The inventor of jigsaw puzzles remains a mystery, with various claims and controversies surrounding the true inventor. Regardless of their origins, jigsaw puzzles have become a popular form of entertainment and education, providing a range of cognitive, emotional, and social benefits. They have been used for therapeutic purposes, and their enduring appeal remains strong today.

Materials Used

The earliest jigsaw puzzles were created using wood as the primary material. This was likely due to the abundance of wood and the relative ease with which it could be worked and shaped. The wood used for these puzzles was typically light-colored and straight-grained, making it easier to see and handle the pieces.

The pieces of these early puzzles were cut using a handsaw, with the image to be puzzled recreated on the wood using a technique called “x-ray transparency.” This method involved drawing the image onto a transparent sheet and then placing it on top of the wood, which was then marked and cut accordingly. The result was a two-dimensional image that could be assembled into a three-dimensional puzzle.

While wood was the primary material used for early jigsaw puzzles, other materials have since been used as well. Some modern puzzles are made from plastic, while others are made from cardboard or even metal. Each material has its own unique characteristics and challenges, making each type of puzzle a unique experience for the solver.

The Shape of the First Jigsaw Puzzles

The first jigsaw puzzles were made from wood and were shaped like a tessellation, which is a pattern made up of irregular shapes that fit together without gaps. These puzzles were created by European cabinetmakers in the 1760s, and they were typically small and intricate in design. The shapes used in these early puzzles were often based on geometric designs, such as stars, circles, and squares, and they were usually cut from a single piece of wood.

One of the earliest known jigsaw puzzles was created by a French cabinetmaker named Jacques-Edmond Rochereau in 1766. This puzzle, which is now housed in the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia, is a wooden box with a lid that contains a tessellation of interlocking pieces. The puzzle is believed to have been made for the Duchess of Brunswick, who was a renowned collector of puzzles and games.

Another early jigsaw puzzle was created by the English puzzle maker, John Spilsbury, in 1767. Spilsbury was a mapmaker and engraver who created a puzzle using a map of the British Isles as the basis for the design. The puzzle consisted of a rectangular board with a picture of the map on it, and 12 separate puzzle pieces that represented the individual counties of England, Scotland, and Wales. The puzzle was intended to teach geography to children, and it was one of the first puzzles to use a recognizable image as the basis for the design.

In the following years, jigsaw puzzles continued to evolve in design and complexity. Puzzle makers began to use more intricate designs and a greater variety of shapes, and they started to create puzzles based on popular images and scenes from art and literature. Despite these changes, the basic principle of the jigsaw puzzle – that of fitting irregular shapes together to create a larger image – has remained largely unchanged since its invention over 250 years ago.

The Difficulty of the First Jigsaw Puzzles

The first jigsaw puzzles were created in the 1760s by a British cartographer and engraver named John Splits. These puzzles were made by cutting up a map or a picture into small pieces and then reassembling them. The pieces were cut along the lines of the image, creating irregular shapes that made the puzzle more challenging to solve.

At the time, the purpose of these puzzles was primarily to educate people about geography and topography. Splits’ puzzles were often based on popular engravings or maps, and they were meant to be used as teaching tools for children. By reassembling the puzzle, the child would learn about the different regions and landmarks of the world.

However, these early puzzles were not without their challenges. The pieces were often irregularly shaped, making it difficult to fit them together. In addition, the images were often highly detailed, which made it even more challenging to match the correct pieces together. As a result, the puzzles were not initially designed to be purely recreational, but rather as a tool for learning.

Despite these challenges, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles grew rapidly, and they soon became a popular form of entertainment for people of all ages. Today, jigsaw puzzles remain a beloved pastime, and they continue to challenge and delight puzzle enthusiasts around the world.

The Inventor of Jigsaw Puzzles

A Puzzling Controversy

Despite the widespread belief that jigsaw puzzles were invented in the 18th century by a man named John Spilsbury, the origins of these intricate and popular puzzles remain shrouded in mystery.

While Spilsbury is credited with creating the first jigsaw puzzle, some historians argue that similar puzzles were in existence prior to his time. For instance, there are reports of wooden puzzles depicting the signs of the zodiac that were created in the 16th century. Additionally, some have suggested that the ancient Greeks may have also created similar puzzles.

The controversy surrounding the true origin of jigsaw puzzles has led to much debate among historians and puzzle enthusiasts alike. While it is widely accepted that Spilsbury’s creation was the first to use the unique interlocking piece design that is now synonymous with jigsaw puzzles, the question of who invented the first puzzle remains unresolved.

Regardless of its origins, the jigsaw puzzle has become a beloved pastime for people of all ages, providing hours of entertainment and challenging the mind.

The Claims of John Spilsbury

John Spilsbury, a London mapmaker and engraver, is often credited with the invention of jigsaw puzzles in the early 1760s. Spilsbury is said to have created his first puzzles by cutting up a map and giving the pieces to his clients as a novel way to learn geography. According to the claims, Spilsbury’s puzzles were not intended as toys, but rather as educational tools to teach cartography and geography.

One of Spilsbury’s early puzzles was a map of England and Wales, which he created for a client who wanted to learn about the country’s geography. Spilsbury’s innovative approach was to cut the map into pieces and give each piece to the client, who then had to reassemble the map to learn the locations of the different regions. This concept of using puzzles as educational tools was revolutionary at the time and set the stage for the widespread popularity of jigsaw puzzles in the years to come.

However, it is important to note that there is some debate among historians and experts about the exact origins of jigsaw puzzles and whether Spilsbury was the true inventor. Some believe that puzzles similar to jigsaw puzzles were created in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and there is evidence of puzzles being produced in North America in the early 1800s. Nevertheless, Spilsbury’s contributions to the development of jigsaw puzzles as an educational tool are widely recognized and have had a lasting impact on the world of puzzles and games.

The Claims of puzzle maker, W.H. Hewlett

In the world of jigsaw puzzles, one name stands out as the creator of this popular pastime: W.H. Hewlett. However, the truth about his involvement in the invention of jigsaw puzzles is shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Hewlett was a London-based puzzle maker who claimed to have invented the jigsaw puzzle in the early 1800s. He produced a variety of puzzles, including one that resembled a jigsaw puzzle, which he called “Hewlett’s Treatise on Puzzles”. In this work, he described the jigsaw puzzle as “a new and interesting species of Puzzle”.

However, there is little evidence to support Hewlett’s claim that he invented the jigsaw puzzle. In fact, there are several other puzzle makers who were producing similar puzzles around the same time as Hewlett. Additionally, there are reports of similar puzzles being produced in Europe during the 1700s, well before Hewlett’s supposed invention.

Despite the lack of evidence, Hewlett’s claim has been widely accepted as the truth, and he is often credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle. However, it remains a mystery as to who truly created this beloved pastime.

The True Inventor of Jigsaw Puzzles

While the exact origins of jigsaw puzzles remain shrouded in mystery, recent scholarship has unearthed a compelling case for a French cartographer and mapmaker named John Spilsbury as the true inventor of jigsaw puzzles. Spilsbury lived in the mid-18th century and was renowned for his work in creating precise and accurate maps. However, his most significant contribution came from a unique approach to teaching geography.

Spilsbury recognized the potential of his work to inspire curiosity and promote education. He began cutting out shapes from his maps, assigning them to his students, and asking them to reassemble the pieces to form a complete image. These puzzles were not only a novel and engaging way to teach geography but also a means to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The concept of jigsaw puzzles quickly gained popularity among educators, and soon, others began to replicate Spilsbury’s design. It wasn’t long before the puzzles became a popular form of entertainment for people of all ages. Today, jigsaw puzzles continue to captivate audiences and are enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.

While Spilsbury’s role as the inventor of jigsaw puzzles remains a subject of debate, his pioneering work in geography and education has left an indelible mark on the world of puzzles.

The Purpose of Jigsaw Puzzles

Entertainment and Education

Jigsaw puzzles serve a dual purpose – they provide entertainment while also promoting education. These puzzles are designed to challenge the mind and sharpen cognitive skills, making them a popular pastime for people of all ages.

Enhancing Cognitive Skills

Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to enhance cognitive skills, including problem-solving, spatial reasoning, and pattern recognition. As individuals work on a puzzle, they are required to think critically and logically to determine the best way to approach the task at hand. This process helps to improve focus, concentration, and memory, which can have a positive impact on overall brain health.

Improving Fine Motor Skills

Jigsaw puzzles also provide an opportunity to improve fine motor skills. The act of picking up and manipulating the puzzle pieces requires hand-eye coordination and dexterity, which can help to improve these skills over time. Additionally, the repetitive nature of the task can help to build muscle memory, making it easier to assemble the puzzle with greater precision and speed.

Promoting Social Interaction

Finally, jigsaw puzzles can promote social interaction and communication. Working on a puzzle with others can foster teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration, as individuals work together to piece the puzzle together. This can be especially beneficial for children, who can learn important social skills while having fun.

Overall, jigsaw puzzles serve as a fun and educational activity that can benefit individuals of all ages. Whether you are looking to enhance your cognitive skills, improve your fine motor skills, or simply enjoy a fun pastime, jigsaw puzzles are an excellent choice.

Therapeutic Benefits

Jigsaw puzzles have been used for centuries as a form of entertainment, but they also have therapeutic benefits that make them a valuable tool in various settings. The puzzles have been used in educational and therapeutic settings to improve cognitive abilities, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. Additionally, they have been used to help people with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Cognitive Benefits

Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent way to improve cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, spatial reasoning, and critical thinking. They require the user to analyze the pieces and figure out how they fit together, which can help improve concentration and memory. Solving puzzles can also help slow down the progression of conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by keeping the brain active and challenged.

Emotional Benefits

In addition to their cognitive benefits, jigsaw puzzles also have emotional benefits. They can be used as a form of stress relief and can help reduce anxiety and depression. The act of piecing together the puzzle can be calming and meditative, providing a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when the puzzle is completed.

Social Benefits

Jigsaw puzzles can also be a social activity, providing an opportunity for people to interact and engage in conversation. They can be used in group settings, such as in nursing homes or schools, to encourage socialization and cooperation. Solving puzzles together can help build teamwork and communication skills, as well as foster a sense of community and connection.

Overall, jigsaw puzzles have a wide range of therapeutic benefits that make them a valuable tool in various settings. Whether used for entertainment or as a form of therapy, puzzles can provide cognitive, emotional, and social benefits that can improve overall well-being.

The Enduring Appeal of Jigsaw Puzzles

Despite the advancements in technology and the plethora of entertainment options available today, jigsaw puzzles continue to captivate people of all ages. There is something inherently satisfying about piecing together a puzzle, and this appeal has remained constant over the years. In this section, we will explore the enduring appeal of jigsaw puzzles and why they continue to be a popular pastime.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles

One of the primary reasons why jigsaw puzzles remain popular is due to their therapeutic benefits. Puzzles have been used in therapy to help people with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The act of focusing on a puzzle can help individuals relax and distract themselves from negative thoughts. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a puzzle can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of purpose.

The Social Aspect of Jigsaw Puzzles

Another reason why jigsaw puzzles remain popular is due to their social aspect. Puzzles can be enjoyed with friends and family, making them a great activity for group gatherings. They provide an opportunity for people to connect and engage in a shared activity, fostering communication and collaboration. Completing a puzzle together can also create a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, strengthening relationships and building memories.

The Intellectual Stimulation of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles also provide intellectual stimulation, challenging the mind and keeping it active. They require critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and patience, making them an excellent tool for mental exercise. Completing a puzzle can also improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The challenge of finding the right piece and fitting it into the correct space can be both frustrating and rewarding, providing a sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is completed.

The Timelessness of Jigsaw Puzzles

Finally, jigsaw puzzles have remained popular due to their timelessness. They have been around for centuries, and their simple yet engaging nature has ensured their longevity. Unlike other forms of entertainment that may become outdated or obsolete, jigsaw puzzles remain relevant and enjoyable. They can be adapted to suit different interests and skill levels, making them accessible to everyone.

In conclusion, the enduring appeal of jigsaw puzzles can be attributed to their therapeutic benefits, social aspect, intellectual stimulation, and timelessness. They continue to be a popular pastime, providing entertainment and engagement for people of all ages.

The Lasting Legacy of Jigsaw Puzzles

  • The Evolution of Jigsaw Puzzles
    • From Hand-Cut Wooden Puzzles to Modern Mass-Produced Toys
      • The Rise of Jigsaw Puzzles in the 19th Century
        • The Popularity of Jigsaw Puzzles in Victorian England
        • The Development of the Jigsaw Puzzle as a Educational Tool
      • The Modern Era of Jigsaw Puzzles
        • The Influence of Technology on Jigsaw Puzzles
        • The Continued Popularity of Jigsaw Puzzles Today
  • The Impact of Jigsaw Puzzles on Society
    • The Role of Jigsaw Puzzles in the Development of Cognitive Skills
      • The Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles for Children and Adults
      • The Connection between Jigsaw Puzzles and Creativity
    • The Cultural Significance of Jigsaw Puzzles
      • The Representation of Jigsaw Puzzles in Art and Literature
      • The Symbolism of Jigsaw Puzzles in Popular Culture
  • The Future of Jigsaw Puzzles
    • The Potential for Technological Advancements in Jigsaw Puzzles
      • The Integration of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Jigsaw Puzzles
      • The Possibility of 3D Printed Jigsaw Puzzles
    • The Continued Appeal of Traditional Jigsaw Puzzles
      • The Enduring Popularity of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
      • The Role of Jigsaw Puzzles in Relaxation and Stress Relief

The Importance of Puzzles in Modern Times

Puzzles have been an integral part of human history, dating back to ancient civilizations. They have been used for entertainment, education, and even for solving complex problems. In modern times, puzzles have become an essential tool for mental stimulation, cognitive development, and stress relief.

Benefits of Puzzles in Modern Times

  1. Mental Stimulation: Puzzles are an excellent way to keep the mind active and sharp. They challenge the brain to think critically, solve problems, and make connections. Regular puzzle-solving can help prevent cognitive decline and improve overall brain health.
  2. Cognitive Development: Puzzles are beneficial for children’s cognitive development. They help improve problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. They also help children develop spatial reasoning and logic, which are essential skills for academic success.
  3. Stress Relief: Puzzles are an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. They provide a distraction from daily worries and help to focus the mind. Solving puzzles can also be a meditative experience, promoting relaxation and reducing feelings of overwhelm.
  4. Social Interaction: Puzzles can be a fun activity for groups of people. They promote social interaction, teamwork, and communication. They also provide an opportunity for people to bond over a shared interest.

The Future of Jigsaw Puzzles

As technology continues to advance, the future of jigsaw puzzles remains bright. Despite the availability of digital alternatives, jigsaw puzzles remain a popular pastime for people of all ages.

Digital Integration

One potential direction for the future of jigsaw puzzles is the integration of digital technology. This could involve creating digital versions of puzzles that can be solved on a computer or mobile device, or incorporating digital elements into physical puzzles. For example, puzzles could be designed with augmented reality, allowing players to view additional clues or information on their device as they solve the puzzle.

Innovative Designs

Another possibility for the future of jigsaw puzzles is the development of new and innovative designs. This could involve creating puzzles with more complex shapes or designs, or incorporating new materials such as 3D printing. Puzzle designers could also explore new themes and subjects, such as puzzles based on popular video games or movies.


The future of jigsaw puzzles may also involve a greater focus on personalization. This could include allowing customers to create their own custom puzzles using their own photos or designs, or offering a wider range of puzzle sizes and difficulty levels to accommodate different skill levels and preferences.

Educational Applications

Finally, the future of jigsaw puzzles may involve more educational applications. Puzzles could be designed to teach specific subjects or skills, such as geography or math. They could also be used as a tool for therapy or rehabilitation, helping individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities to improve their problem-solving skills.

Overall, the future of jigsaw puzzles looks promising, with opportunities for digital integration, innovative designs, personalization, and educational applications. As people continue to seek out engaging and stimulating activities, jigsaw puzzles are likely to remain a popular and enduring pastime.


1. Who invented jigsaw puzzles?

Jigsaw puzzles were invented by a man named John Spilsbury in the 1760s. He was a British mapmaker and engraver who had the idea to create puzzles using the maps he drew. The idea behind the puzzles was to teach people about geography and the locations of different countries and regions.

2. Why were jigsaw puzzles invented?

Jigsaw puzzles were invented as a tool for education. John Spilsbury created the first jigsaw puzzles to teach people about geography and the locations of different countries and regions. The puzzles were designed to be interactive and engaging, and they quickly became popular as a way to learn about the world.

3. How did jigsaw puzzles evolve over time?

Over time, jigsaw puzzles evolved from simple maps to more complex designs featuring images of flowers, landscapes, and other objects. The number of pieces in the puzzles also increased, making them more challenging to solve. Today, jigsaw puzzles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and difficulty levels, and they are enjoyed by people of all ages.

4. What is the appeal of jigsaw puzzles?

The appeal of jigsaw puzzles lies in their ability to challenge the mind and engage the imagination. Solving a jigsaw puzzle requires patience, concentration, and problem-solving skills, and the sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is completed is a rewarding experience. In addition, jigsaw puzzles can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, making them a popular activity for families and friends to enjoy together.

5. Are jigsaw puzzles still popular today?

Yes, jigsaw puzzles are still popular today. In fact, they have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of online puzzle games and the popularity of puzzle-solving as a form of stress relief. Many people enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of working on a jigsaw puzzle, and they continue to be a popular pastime for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Piecing together the history of jigsaw puzzles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *