These strange days, jigsaws are enjoying a surge in popularity. They’re a cheap way of passing the time, engaging the mind and achieving a feeling of fulfilment on their completion. I find it very relaxing to rummle* through a box of jigsaw pieces until I find a piece I’m looking for. It is so satisfying to click it into place and make a little more of the picture appear.
Here are 5 facts about Jigsaws you may not have known:
1) The first jigsaw was made by an English cartographer, John Spilsbury in 1767. He painted a map on to a flat piece of wood and cut round the boundaries of the countries. He called them Dissected Maps and used them to teach children geography.
2) They weren’t called jigsaws until around 1900, after the tool used to cut them out and even then it was a misnomer – they were cut with a fretsaw. But the term ‘fretsaw’ doesn’t quite have that ring to it.
3) At the start of the twentieth century, jigsaws looked very different to today’s. They were cut around blocks of colour with no transferring of detail across pieces so there was no way of knowing which piece went where. Neither did the pieces interlock so a hasty move could upset the whole thing and spoil hours of effort. On top of which, puzzles didn’t come with a picture, although they were given a title which could be misleading, so there was no way of knowing what you were creating. In fact, having a picture of the completed puzzle was regarded as cheating.
4) During the Great Depression in the 1930’s, jigsaws were very popular as a cheap form of entertainment. They were now made from cardboard and could be mass produced and hence inexpensive. Companies used them as giveaways promoting their products and as advertisements.
5) Jigsaws are now laser-cut and can range in size from 4 pieces to over 50,000. The largest jigsaw (though it is debated) was constructed in Vietnam in 2018 by the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The puzzle (an image of a lotus flower) was 48 feet by 76 feet and contained 551,232 pieces.
6) Ok, I can’t count! In March 2020, the jigsaw manufacturer, Ravensburger, reported a 370% increase in sales. There are a lot of us out there in isolation, rummling through a box of pieces looking for the right one.
* rummle: a Scots word meaning to search through a pile of stuff eg your underwear drawer, a box of jigsaw pieces, looking for something that you can use.